Oleoylsarcosin Damien Hirst
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Damien Hirst’s Oleoylsarcosine is an etching by Damien Hirst from 2008 that is in a hundred unique variants. Each print is signed by the artist on the front and inscribed with a Damien Hirst archive number on the reverse side. The print is representative of one of Hirst’s widely recognised works of his career, the spot paintings. These works first appeared in the Freeze exhibition, curated by Hirst himself in London in 1988. This exhibition showcased his own work alongside the work of his friends and fellow students from Goldsmiths College in an abandoned docklands warehouse. Marking a turning point in Hirst’s career, Hirst then rose to fame and would go on to win the Turner prize seven years later.
The spots represent abstraction reduced to its most basic mechanisms: colour, form and composition. The grid formula for these paintings is the basis for an unbounded series where Hirst can infinitely explore harmonious and contrasting colour combinations. Hirst has explained that, “mathematically, with the spot paintings, I probably discovered the most fundamentally important thing in any kind of art. Which is the harmony of where colour can exist on its own, interacting with other colours in a perfect format.”
The first spot paintings that appeared at the Freeze show 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. In contrast to the original spot paintings, the Oleoylsarcosine prints are precise and clinical in their aesthetic. The Freeze exhibition marked a turning point in Hirst’s career where he began to employ assistants to create the spot paintings. This was part of the artist’s aims towards creating works that appear to have been produced mechanically and without human intervention.
Oleoylsarcosine is representative of Hirst’s great ambition as an artist. The spot paintings are now universally recognised and have come to redefine the scale and limits of contemporary art in Britain. Such works have become iconic to Hirst’s name due to his large media presence, especially following his Turner Prize win in 1995. Hirst’s persona in the media and his artwork go hand in hand, and the artist uses this often to his own advantage.
Why is Oleoylsarcosine so important?
Each etching in the hundred variants of Oleoylsarcosine is unique as the colour treatment of the 48 spots in each print is different. The series for Hirst encompasses the simple rule that no colour must appear twice in any of the spot prints, and further extends this to the rule that no two prints from this edition should be the same.
The titles from this 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. Oleoylsarcosine is one of a number of fatty acids used as an ingredient in personal care and cosmetic products. 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.
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