Belfry is an etching from Damien Hirst’s Sanctum series from 2009 that shows an intricate kaleidoscopic pattern created out of butterfly wings. The print combines the splendour of a rose window with the symmetry of a kaleidoscope, rendered in red, blue, yellow, orange and black. The print exudes kinetic energy that is exciting and mesmerising to look at.
The Sanctum series is indicative of Hirst’s obsession with butterflies and every print uses many butterfly wings to form its beautiful pattern. 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 Belfry.
Hirst’s prints in the Sanctum series are reminiscent of stained glass windows in Gothic architecture and the circular patterns of mandalas. The motif of the butterfly has been used by the Greeks to depict Psyche, the soul, and in Christian imagery represents resurrection. Each print in the series can be understood as an exploration into beauty, nature, religion, death and the fleetingness of life.