Valium is a print by Damien Hirst from 2000 that shows hundreds of dots in many colours, arranged in a systematic circular composition. This print is a variation on Hirst’s famous Spots paintings, arguably his best-known series, of which there are over 1,400 works on canvas. The paintings are crucial to understanding Hirst’s quasi-scientific rationality that underpins much of his practice.
In an interview in 1991, Hirst observed of his Spots paintings: “I sometimes imagine that the Spots paintings are what my art looks like under the microscope. The difference between art and life is the difference between cells in the real world and the Spot Paintings… a way I can explain more directly how they relate is to think of them all as titled Isolated Elements for the Purpose of Understanding. The spots are separated from all the other spots by their boundary yet the colour takes them beyond that boundary and they communicate with each other… the way they are constructed is very uncompromising – the grid structure allows no emotion. I want them to look like they’ve been made by a person trying to paint like a machine… from this negative structure the end result is always a celebration, no matter how I feel.”
This work and Hirst’s other Spots paintings follow a regulated but basic system to create their compositions. The spots are each the same size within each painting and are positioned in grid-like formats. Valium is a variation on this system, the spots equally spaced but placed in a circular formation.