H9 The Virtues Damien Hirst
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Produced as a set of eight giclée prints on aluminium composite panel in varying edition sizes, H9 The Virtues series by Damien Hirst is a personal series that harks back to Hirst’s youth.
The prints in the H9 The Virtues series are dedicated to showing the beauty of the cherry blossom tree. The tree resonates strongly with Hirst’s childhood and youth as the artist remembers how, at the age of three, he watched his mother painting the magnificent tree in full blossom. The artist’s love for the trees, their natural beauty and elegance grew stronger and Hirst recalls fondly how he was enchanted by a cherry blossom tree outside his bedroom window in Devon. Hirst was drawn to the way in which the cycle of the cherry blossom tree acted like a clock, with its annual blossoming representing a year passing. The artist explains “I realised that, from a time-passing point of view, the tree meant everything to me: that’s another year, that’s another year. For a while, it just became like a clock. And I kind of love it for that reason
The cherry blossom is Japan’s national flower and Hirst references Japanese culture through the series name and the title of each print. The print names are derived from the Japanese ‘Eight Virtues of Bushidō’ according to Nitobe Inazō –justice, courage, mercy, politeness, honesty, honour, loyalty, and control. These virtues acted as a moral code concerning samurai attitudes, behaviour and lifestyle and each print is named after a different virtue.
Delicate pinks and blues are used throughout the series to capture the trees in bloom. The soft pinks Hirst uses for the blossoms contrast with the vibrant blue sky, drawing attention to the natural beauty of the flowers. When looked at closely, it becomes apparent that the prints are composed of tiny spots. The influences of Impressionism and Pointillism shine through in the H9 The Virtues series in which Hirst combines thick brushstrokes with intricate spots and delicate gestural lines. Hirst’s use of spots in this series is significant as the artist has a longstanding obsession with the use of spots in his artworks. Known for his methodological approach to art and precision, Hirst often experiments with spots and circles, with the most iconic example being Hirst’s spot paintings which the artist produced from 1986- 2011.
H9 The Virtues series was made against the backdrop of the Covid-19 lockdown in 2021. The series is part of a wider project dedicated to cherry blossoms which includes over 100 works created by Hirst exhibited at the Fondation Cartier in Paris from July 2021- January 2022.
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