Damien Hirst's 2010 Till Death Do Us Part prints explore the theme of mortality through a pointedly Pop-Art aesthetic. Each print features a two-dimensional skull against a bright backdrop, loudly inviting the viewer to confront their own mortality.
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Published in 2010, Hirst’s Til Death do us Part hits us head on with a series of bright, saturated screen prints of a front-facing human skull. Every print in the series shows a silkscreen image of a human skull facing directly out towards the viewer. The image of the skull used in each print is taken from a photograph and flattened, depicted in saturated, block colours.
This series is undoubtedly inspired by the Pop artist Andy Warhol and his many brightly coloured screen prints that he is renowned for. Warhol was obsessed with the reproduction of images in mass culture, hence his repetition of the same subject several times across a single series and Hirst plays on this fascination with repetition and reproduction. The repetition of a single image across the entire series explores the concept of democratising high art and mimics mass-media imagery. Before Hirst, Warhol was also preoccupied with the iconography of death, depicting skulls in many variations in the latter stage of his career. Through his obsessive repetition of the skull throughout the Till Death Do Us Part series and his wider body of work, Hirst both desensitises and amplifies the permeating human condition of mortality.
Hirst takes a playful approach to the art historical genre of still life painting, the subject of the skull referencing the ‘vanitas’ still life genre. Vanitas paintings throughout history have functioned as a reminder of human mortality and the fragility of life, a theme that is present throughout much of Hirst’s works. Hirst’s use of vivid non-naturalistic colours points produces a jarring effect on the viewer, set in contrast to the morbid subject matter.
Rendering the fine detail of the skull and setting this against the dark backdrop, Hirst produces a highly simplistic image that finds universally engaging triggers. This contrast between bold colour, the flat backdrop and the realistic image plays with Hirst’s concern with facts and truth that images are assumed to depict.
Till Death Do Us Part (purple african gold purple imperial purple) © Damien Hirst 2012
Throughout his career, the skull has been one of Hirst's most evocative motifs. Speaking to his fascination with death and the macabre, the skull is a universal symbol for mortality, and one which Hirst has interpreted in an array of media. For The Love Of God, perhaps the most famous of Hirst's iterations of the skull, is an illustrious diamond-encrusted human skull and his ultimate expression of the memento mori.
Till Death Do Us Part (cerulean, blue pigment, yellow, royal red) © Damien Hirst 2012
Across sculpture, painting, printing, and photography, death has always been the guiding subject in Hirst's oeuvre. This was a subject most controversially expressed in his formaldehyde works, but Till Death Do Us Part is a tongue-in-cheek allusion to the inevitability of death.
Till Death Do Us Part (heavenly peppermint green, silver gloss, racing green) © Damien Hirst 2012
Much like the physical skull in For The Love Of God, the skull that forms the basis for Till Death Do Us Part is Hirst's ultimate memento mori. All prints in the series capture the skull head-on, as though its sockets were gazing out directly to the viewer. The prints are ghostly and uncanny, presenting the viewer with an eerie view into death. The series reminds us of our own mortality and the impermanence of all life.
Till Death Do Us Part (dove grey, gunmetal, leaf green) © Damien Hirst 2012