The Souls Damien Hirst
Find out more about Damien Hirst’s The Souls series, browse prints & editions for sale & view the works wanted by active buyers right now.
The Souls is a vast collection of foil block prints by Damien Hirst from 2010 that is one of the artist’s most extensive explorations of the butterfly motif. Across the entire of The Souls series there are four species of butterfly depicted in each print, within which are 80 colour variations, each presented as an edition of 15. The abundance of butterflies across the series reflects the various insects found in a meadow, each one unique.
Reminiscent of the work of Pop artist Andy Warhol, The Souls is an immense set of prints, each with the same subject and composition. Each print in the series shows a butterfly in the centre, set against a white backdrop and created using a metallic foil block printing technique to produce a shimmering effect to imitate the way their wings reflect the light. Despite using real butterflies as the basis for these prints, Hirst’s choice of colour for each insect is entirely constructed and artificial.
The foil-block printing technique for this series requires a three step process. A colour print is as the base, upon which two shimmering layers are added to pick out the details of the wing patterns and thoraxes. Some prints use three colours whilst others use one or two, and in many instances, layers have been blind-blocked, to create variations in texture rather than colour.
Hirst uses saturated and bright hues to depict the butterflies in The Souls series, playing with this tension between life and death that the butterflies symbolise. Hirst has used the butterfly as a reflection of life throughout his artistic oeuvre and is fascinated by the appearance of life that the insect retains in death. The Souls series is representative of the way that Hirst puts themes of morality, life, love, faith and aesthetics into dialogue with one another to create spectacular and aphoristic images.
Hirst is fascinated by religion and his work, like the Souls series, addresses the timeless endless renewing of faith in the face of mortality. The butterfly is used by the artist as a traditional symbol of the soul, and of the soul’s presence on Earth before transmigration to an afterlife. Thus, in the gallery space, The Souls create an all-encompassing effect that surrounds the viewer. Speaking of the display of The Souls in the gallery space, Hirst has explained: “This comes from an idea to fill the gallery with butterflies, an idea that I’ve had before. When I think of ‘The Souls’ I think of Judgement Day and ‘Jacob’s ladder’. Many souls work better than one, so to hang them three high in the gallery and use all of the available space is a great way of doing it theologically.”
Why is The Souls series so important?
The Souls is important because of its vast size and portrayal of many butterflies, each unique. The butterfly motif is a prominent figure that Hirst has used throughout his career to bring together themes around morality, life, love, faith and aesthetics. Speaking of his obsession with butterflies Hirst has explained, “I love butterflies because when they are dead they look alive. The foil block gives them a feel similar to the actual butterflies in the way that they reflect the light. After ‘The Dead’ I had to do the butterflies because you can’t have one without the other.”
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