Proctolin is a screen print by Damien Hirst from 2008, showing six rows of eight perfect circles, each a different bright colour and set against a shiny bronze backdrop. Proctolin is based on Hirst’s famous Spots paintings, a series of over 1,400 works on canvas that depict coloured dots in grid-like compositions set against white backdrops.
Hirst’s artistic output is on a large enough scale to justify employing assistants across three different studios and as such, most of the Spots paintings were produced collaboratively. After painting a small number himself, Hirst created a system with a few basic rules that allowed for others to produce the Spots paintings for him. Every spot in each piece is a perfect circle, each the same size, hand-painted and arranged in a grid. The Spots paintings were ultimately about an exploration of colour combinations, with every spot on each canvas a different colour. The series therefore has become a set of works with endless possibilities and combinations.
Hirst has commented on the way in which these paintings are deceptively simple: “If you look closely at any one of these paintings, a strange thing happens: because of the lack of repeated colours there is no harmony. We are used to picking out chords of other colours to create meaning. This can’t happen. So in every painting there is a subliminal sense of unease: the colours project so much joy it’s hard to feel it, but it’s there. The horror underlying everything. The horror that can overwhelm everything at any moment.”