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Immediately recognisable as a Damien Hirst creation, 2018 Woodcut Spots were published in a set of 4, with all spots positioned and sized identically. The spot paintings have come to be Hirst’s most iconic genre of works. Published in a set of four woodcut prints, this series shows four rectangular compositions with several rows of coloured spots, all the same shape and size, each depicted in a unique colour.
The origins of these famous works are from 1988, when Hirst in the final stages of his Freeze exhibition painted two arrangements of coloured spots onto the wall of the warehouse, titling them Edge and Row respectively. The Freeze exhibition marked a turning point in Hirst’s career where he rose to fame in London. Hirst curated and began this exhibition that took place in an abandoned docklands warehouse, showcasing the work of his friends and fellow students from Goldsmiths College, as well as his own. Seven years later Hirst won the Turner Prize and is now deemed to be one of the most influential artists of the last 30 years.
The titles of each print in this series are based on names of chemical compounds, and indicate Hirst’s interest in investigating boundaries between science, aesthetics, medicine and art. The colourful spots are set in equal distance from one another in a formulaic composition. The white clinical backdrop of the print recalls a laboratory and its kit, alluding to the crispness of coats, benches and hospital walls. Moreover, in its depiction of many spots, this print appears like a packet of medical pills.
There are over 1000 spot paintings in existence, dating from 1988 to 2011, where Hirst has produced an average of 60 spot paintings a year. The grid formula for these paintings is the basis for an endless series where Hirst can infinitely explore harmonious and contrasting colour combinations. Fascinated by intuitive colour choice from his days at Goldsmiths, Hirst claims that the spot paintings have removed any problems he previously had with colour, allowing him to present a perfect arrangement of colour that is never repeated. Hirst has said of these works, “To create that structure, to do those colours, and do nothing. I suddenly got what I wanted. It was just a way of pinning down the joy of colour.”