The Aspects Damien Hirst
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The Aspects series is a portfolio of five giclée prints produced in 2015 by Damien Hirst. Depicted in varying shades of blue, each print in the series shows an array of butterfly wings arranged into intricate kaleidoscopic patterns. Each composition is perfectly symmetrical, two made up of concentric circles, two of vertical and horizontal lines, and one formed through a diagonal cross section.
Much like many of prints produced in this period of Hirst’s career, The Aspects series is indicative of the artist’s obsession and repetition of the butterfly motif. For Hirst, the butterfly is a ‘universal trigger’ that many people share in finding attractive and joyous. Recalling someone once saying to him: “Butterflies are beautiful, but it’s a shame they have disgusting hairy bodies in the middle,” Hirst in works like this chose only to display the dazzling wings of the insect. By removing the butterfly wing from the insect body as a whole and forming a pattern abstracted from the butterfly itself, Hirst explores the difference between the butterfly as insect and butterfly as a universal concept.
Hirst uses the wings of butterflies in varying shades of blue to create the geometric pattern of each print, appearing almost like insects on display in a natural history museum. The aesthetic comes into play with the scientific, two key themes repeated throughout Hirst’s oeuvre, in the creation of a beautiful pattern that is mesmerising to look at. The entire of The Aspects series is made up of varying shades of blue as Hirst uses the same species of butterfly wings to form the pattern of each print.
Why is The Aspects series so important?
The Aspects series is important as it is representative of Hirst’s very famous and highly recognisable kaleidoscopic paintings. Hirst’s first kaleidoscopic painting, It’s A Wonderful World, was created in 2001. This earlier work was inspired by a Victorian tea tray found by Hirst and much like The Aspects series was made by placing thousands of different coloured butterfly wings in complex geometric patterns. In both It’s A Wonderful World and The Aspects series, the butterfly wings are rendered unrecognisable when viewed at a distance and as part of a larger intricate pattern.
Hirst’s prints in The Aspects series are reminiscent of stained glass windows in Gothic architecture and the circular patterns of mandalas. The motif of the butterfly has been used by the Greeks to depict Psyche, the soul, and in Christian imagery represents resurrection. Indeed, the titles of the prints in this series, such as H6-2 Grace, include common virtues found in a range of religions, reflecting Hirst’s fascination with spirituality and the human psyche.
In 2007, Hirst brought the kaleidoscope paintings closer to their affiliation with Christian motifs and architecture in his Superstitions exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery. These paintings were created with arch shaped frames that echo pointed Gothic arches and produce a sense of entering a sacred space when entering the gallery. Some of these works, such as South Rose Window, Lincoln Cathedral, directly copied the stained glass windows of Cathedrals and some later kaleidoscope paintings made in 2008 were named after entries in The Book of Psalms.
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