Your Smell is an etching by Damien Hirst from his 2015 series The Wonder Of You. The etching shows an image of eight hyperrealist butterflies in saturated colours set against a colour field of crimson red. 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.
Hirst’s Lessons in Love series is reminiscent of his 1991 In and Out of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays) installation that fixed the bodies of dead butterflies into monochrome gloss paint, 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 Your Smell that contrasts the highly realistic images of butterflies against the solid crimson backdrop.
Speaking to the artist’s preoccupation with the concept that art mirrors life, his use of the butterfly motif has remained prominent throughout his career. Not only is each butterfly born with a unique pattern that mimics the individuality that frames much of human life, but the butterfly for Hirst symbolises growth, change, life and death. The butterfly motif appears both in printed editions as well as in installations where visitors are situated in a room of live butterflies.