12 Woodcut Spots Damien Hirst
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The 12 Woodcut Spots series is a set of 12 prints by Damien Hirst from 2010, each in editions varying between 24, 34 and 48. The series is representative of some of Hirst’s most iconic works to his name, the spot paintings. The spot paintings that depict rows of spots in a grid-like formula, each spot a different colour, are an exploration of colour and form that is distinctly Hirstian.
As with all of the spot paintings that Hirst has produced in his career, the prints in this series are formulaic and crisp in form. The spots are each perfect circles, spaced equally apart and set against clinical white backdrops. Their clean edges and bright, flat colours indicate a lack of human touch in the production of this print. The spot paintings marked a turn in Hirst’s career where he began to employ assistants to help produce his work. The process of making the spot paintings added a factory-like approach to his artistic practice, heavily influenced by Pop artist Andy Warhol. Despite the apparent simplicity of the 12 Woodcut Spots prints, the paintings are painstaking and laborious to produce in their precision and endlessness. Hirst explained that his goal was to create work that seemed as though it was produced ‘by a person trying to paint like a machine.’
The cold repetition and sterile aesthetic of the 12 Woodcut Spots series is reminiscent of Hirst’s early pill cabinet works such as The Void from 2000 and his prolific Pharmaceutical paintings that span across his career. Both works evoke a sense of endless sameness and directly allude to the realms of medicine and science. The titles from the 12 Woodcut Spots series are taken randomly from the chemical company Sigma-Aldrich’s catalogue ‘Biochemicals for Research and Diagnostic Reagents’ that Hirst first encountered in the early 1990s. The grid formula is integral to the endless potential that Hirst’s spot paintings hold and allow for a rational and precise exploration of colour combinations. Of his famous spot paintings, Hirst has said: “I believe all painting and art should be uplifting for the viewer. I feel it inside me. It gives me a buzz.”
Why is the 12 Woodcut Spots series so important?
The first spot paintings by Hirst appeared in his 1988 Freeze exhibition that showcased the work of his friends at Goldsmiths College, alongside his own. The original spot paintings were hand-painted spots that were messy, expressionist and dripped down an 8ft-by-12ft panel. The two painted arrangements of coloured spots onto the wall of the warehouse, titling them Edge and Row respectively. The 12 Woodcut Spots series and the spot paintings more broadly represent Hirst’s expansive artist vision, notably in their enormity and endlessness. As the Freeze exhibition demonstrated, throughout his career Hirst has favoured large industrial space of display over standard British gallery spaces that risk constricting the artist’s capacious vision.
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