In the six prints collected in The Wonder of You (2015), Damien Hirst scatters pristinely rendered butterflies across block colour backdrops. While the titles reference the sensory experiences of love, the prints have an unnervingly sterile quality— the insects even appear as though preserved in a cabinet.
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The Wonder of You (2015) captures the crisp, visual language and handling of colour that Hirst had now fully established in his butterfly prints. Hirst maintains a crisp visual language and bright colour choice throughout the series that compliments the photographic detail of the butterfly motif in each work.
Hirst’s use of the butterfly in this series differs significantly from his first reference to the insect in his In and Out of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays) installation from 1991. This work included live butterflies and was an exploration of ‘the way the real butterfly can destroy the idea (birthday-card) kind of love; the symbol exists apart from the real thing.’ The series title The Wonder Of You, exemplifies this idealised beauty as separate from the insect itself that Hirst encapsulates in his work. Where The Wonder of You does strike parallels with Hirst’s earlier work is in the depiction of butterflies that in the original installation were fixed into monochrome gloss paint and surrounded by overflowing ashtrays. The choice of household gloss was intended to ‘look like an accident of paint with butterflies stuck on it,’ according to the artist. This effect is reflected in The Wonder Of You that contrasts the highly realistic images of butterflies against the solid colour backdrop.
The Wonder Of You series represents Hirst’s interest in combining hyperrealism with artificial colour and traditional methods of art making. Hirst has taken photographic themes as the basis of much of his work, notably beginning his Fact painting series in 2000. Of this obsession with the photographic Hirst has explained, “Art has been in constant battle for hundreds of years with every other kind of image-making… newspapers are supposed to be about facts and truth, and you believe you get a true view of the world from these images when you don’t: they’re completely fake.”
The hyperrealism of the butterflies in the series are undermined by the flatness of the block coloured backdrops. Hirst’s intuitive colour choice is based on aesthetic and non-rational demands that have remained in his practice since his art training at Goldsmiths. Each print in The Wonder Of You shows the butterflies in a playful array of bright and contrasting colours producing an eye-catching print with universal appeal.