Phenyl Salicylate is a woodcut print from Damien Hirst’s 40 Woodcut Spots series from 2011. The square composition shows four spots that are identical in size and shape, each depicting a different colour. Across the artist’s vast oeuvre every spot painting represents a unique combination of colours. The series is an exploration of colour and form that is distinctly Hirstian.
The 40 Woodcut series is reminiscent of Hirst’s Pharmaceutical paintings that span across his career and is one of his most prolific works. The titles from this series are taken randomly from the chemical company Sigma-Aldrich’s catalogue ‘Biochemicals for Research and Diagnostic Reagents’ that Hirst first encountered in the early 1990s. The grid formula is integral to the endless potential that Hirst’s spot paintings hold and allow for a rational and precise exploration of colour combinations.
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.” There are over 1000 spot paintings in existence, dating from 1988 to 2011, and over the last 24 years Hirst has produced an average of 60 spot paintings a year.