Friday, 5 November 2010

Damien Hirst at Gagosian Davies St.

I seem to be doing the Gagosian London tour this week - although, as I've reached interview (i.e. chapter) 5 of On The Way To Work, it does seem a good time to be visiting a work of Hirst's featuring pills.

The Davies St Space is considerably smaller than that of Britannia St, and wisely Hirst has kept the exhibition to similar, alternating pieces - b&w prints of a skull and an assortment of facsimile pills stuck to a canvas.

The exhibition, Poisons & Remedies boils down to skull = poison, pills = remedy. However the pill are an 'ambivalent' symbol of cure though. Scattered across the canvas arbitrarily they seem to be leaking their contents and looking inconsequential alongside the dramatic, monumental black and white prints either side of them.

The skull-images are too simple to be just images though, just like the pills can't be seen as images. The edges of the skull prints are rough, like the dispersing Ben-Day dots of older newsprint and, as, such begin to look like the scattered pixelation that the pills also represent. Indeed, the scattering of dots, or dot-like particles, immediately reminded me of bacteria under a microscope, crawling around in a petri dish.

Consequently the skulls, named after various different 'toxic chemical preparations' begin to seem more closely related to the drugs that are supposed to deal with them.

I had further impressions about the pieces following this: a positive reaction to the honest black and white of the prints, but equivocation about the seductive colours of the pills (and the trade marks that are printed, cosmetically, on them; again, ease at the flat, 2-dimensional prints but a more kinetic and so circumspect apprehension of the pills which, sitting on the surface of their canvases, seem to proffer themselves; the ashen, fait-accompli prints; the pert, present potential of the pills.

I'm a little tired of Hirst's interest in skulls - and indeed pills. Juxtaposed they suggest a third possibility and are therefore a rather more successful proposition. Alas, this is an interpretation as the pieces are separate.

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