Hell is an inkjet, glaze, and foil block print from Damien Hirst’s Utopia series from 2012. The print shows an image of several cigarette butts on display across three shelves of a mirrored cabinet. Considered alongside the Utopia series as a whole, Hirst sets this print in stark contrast by exchanging the sterility of the medical pills for the dirty cigarette butts.
This print is a cropped image of Hirst’s earlier installation Dead Ends, Died Out, Examined from 1993 that displayed a series of stubs in a glass-fronted cabinet. The motif of cigarettes and smoking have featured repeatedly throughout Hirst’s artistic oeuvre as a symbol of the unacknowledged harm that they cause to the body. Of this Hirst has said, ‘Smoking may do more harm than heroin, although they both end in death. Legal drugs are far more frightening than the illegal kind. If you’re not breaking the law, it’s harder to know where the boundaries are.’
Hirst’s fascination with death comes to the fore in Hell. Each cigarette stub is unique in size, colour and brand, and the remnants of tobacco, filter, paper and ash add to this sense of ephemerality and individuality. This display of the cigarettes that can no longer be used represent the way they have sustained a life of their own that extinguishes a bit of the smoker’s life.