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Hirst’s 2009 Sanctum Series is made up of 6 etchings, each showing the artist’s fascination with creating kaleidoscopic patterns from butterfly wings. The prints are visually striking both as a full set and as individual artworks. Each print shows an intricate kaleidoscopic pattern created out of butterfly wings. The series combines the splendour of a rose window with the symmetry of a kaleidoscope, exuding a kinetic energy that is exciting and mesmerising.
The Sanctum series is reminiscent of Hirst’s first kaleidoscopic painting It’s a Wonderful World, created in 2001. This earlier work was inspired by a Victorian tea tray found by Hirst and much like the Sanctum series was made by placing thousands of different coloured butterfly wings in complex geometric patterns. In both It’s a Wonderful World and the prints that make up the Sanctum series, the butterfly wings are rendered unrecognisable when viewed at a distance and as part of a larger intricate pattern.
Evoking stained glass windows in Gothic architecture and the circular patterns of mandalas, the Sanctum series is representative of the influence that religious iconography has on Hirst’s work. The motif of the butterfly has been used by the Greeks to depict Psyche, the soul, and in Christian imagery represents resurrection. Indeed, the titles of the prints in this series include architectural features of Christian church buildings, reflecting Hirst’s fascination with spirituality and the human psyche. Together, the prints in Sanctum bring together themes of science, aesthetics and religion through the leitmotif of the butterfly. Each print in the series can be understood as an exploration into beauty, nature, religion, death and the fleetingness of life.