Taken from Damien Hirst’s 2007 Cathedral series, Cathedral, Santiago De Compostela is a screen print that shows an intricate kaleidoscopic pattern made up of many varying butterfly wings. The print is depicted in an array of colours such as blue, yellow, coral, orange and red and the geometric composition is made up of concentric circles.
Evocative of stained glass windows in Gothic architecture, Cathedral, Santiago De Compostela conflates the scientific with the aesthetic. Hirst uses the wings of butterflies to create the geometric pattern, appearing almost like insects on display in a natural history museum. The aesthetic comes into play in the creation of a beautiful pattern exuding a kinetic energy that is exciting and mesmerising to look at.
For Hirst, the butterfly is a ‘universal trigger’ that many people share in finding attractive and joyous. Recalling someone once saying to him: “Butterflies are beautiful, but it’s a shame they have disgusting hairy bodies in the middle,” Hirst in works like this chose only to display the dazzling wings in Cathedral, Santiago De Compostela. Across the series, the butterfly wing is rendered unrecognisable when viewed at a distance and as part of a larger intricate pattern.