Lessons In Love Damien Hirst
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Released as a set of four polymer-gravure etchings, each in editions of 55, the Lessons In Love series was produced by Damien Hirst in 2018. Depicted with bright, block coloured backdrops, each print in this series shows five hyperrealist butterflies scattered across the composition. Much like many of Hirst’s works, the series is formulaic in its repetition of subject matter and variations of composition.
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 from 1986 to 1989. Since the late 1980s, Hirst has worked across a variety of mediums including installation, sculpture, painting and drawing, to investigate the relationship between art, life and death. Hirst has explained: “Art’s about life and it can’t really be about anything else…there isn’t anything else.” Hirst’s use of the naturalistic butterfly motif alongside an intuitive choice of colour is representative of his desire to dissolve the boundaries between art, science and popular culture.
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 the Lessons in Love series that contrasts the highly realistic images of butterflies in each print against the solid, bright colour field backdrops.
Why is the Lessons In Love series so important?
The butterfly is one of the most prominent motifs in Hirst’s artistic oeuvre. Used across a variety of mediums and in many variations, the butterfly is important to Hirst due to the appearance of life that the insects retain in death. Well known for his curiosity around mortality, Hirst claims that his use of the butterfly motif is a symbol for the celebration of life rather than death. The Lessons In Love series is very similar to his series of paintings entitled The Four Elements (Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, Green and Blue from 2005. These earlier works were the first example of the artist’s use of the painted butterfly motif. Speaking of his obsession with butterflies Hirst has explained, “I think rather than be personal you have to find universal triggers: everyone’s frightened of glass, everyone’s frightened of sharks, everyone loves butterflies.”
The Lessons In Love series, with its use of the butterfly motif, speaks to the artist’s preoccupation with the concept that art mirrors life. 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. Much of Hirst’s work seeks to explore the uncertainties at the core of human experience: love, life, death, loyalty and betrayal through unconventional media. Lessons in Love points to this exploration in its title, each of the prints describing an action of affection or care such as Be Considerate and Be Thoughtful. The butterfly motif appears both in printed editions as well as in installations where visitors are situated in a room of live butterflies.
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