Picrotoxin is a woodcut print from Damien Hirst’s 40 Woodcut Spots series from 2011. The print shows a perfect circle in pink, positioned in the centre of the square composition. Set against a plain white backdrop, this print appears like a drastically cropped version of one of Hirst’s more recognisable spot paintings. As a result, Picrotoxin is decidedly abstract.
The 40 Woodcut Spots series is reminiscent of Hirst’s vast series of spot paintings, of which there are over 1000 in existence, dating from 1988 to 2011. The spots represent abstraction reduced to its most basic mechanisms: colour, form and composition. The grid formula for these paintings is the basis for an unbounded series where Hirst can infinitely explore harmonious and contrasting colour combinations.
When Hirst’s first spot paintings appeared in the Freeze exhibition of 1988, this marked a turning point in the artist’s career where he began to employ assistants to create the spot paintings. As artificial as the chemicals and drugs that the titles take their inspiration from, the spot paintings appear to have been produced mechanically and without human intervention. Despite their deceiving simplicity, these works are laborious and painstaking to produce.