Damien Hirst borrows the words ‘I Once Was What You Are,You Will Be What I Am Now’ from a Latin epitaph: ‘Quod tu es, ego fui, quod ego sum, tu eris’. Here the words are used to title six signed photogravure etchings in Hirst’s 2007 print series. Produced in an edition of 48, these artworks are all signed and numbered by the artist.
Like other prints in this series, I Once Was What You Are Now 4 depicts a white skull emerging from a darkened background. With it’s chin slightly raised the skull sends a message to the viewer, challenging us to take heed. ‘The Skull’ as memento mori is a motif found throughout the history of art; it is also a recognisable symbol in Hirst’s own ouvre where the balance of life and death is a theme commonly explored.
I Once Was What You Are, You Will Be What I Am 4 can be appreciated either in isolation, or as a part of the intended group of six artworks. It is also worth considering prints in this series alongside the six etchings which comprise The Souls On Jacob’s Ladder Take Their Flight. Conceived and created in tandem, these artworks show brightly coloured butterflies on a black background.