Artist biography

English sculptor, installation artist, painter and printmaker. He was a leading figure in the group of ‘Young British Artists'. He studied at Goldsmiths College, London (1986–9), and in 1988 curated the exhibition Freeze. His works are explicitly concerned with the fundamental dilemmas of human existence; his constant themes have included the fragility of life, society's reluctance to confront death, and the nature of love and desire, often clothed in titles which exist somewhere between the naive and the disingenuous.

Dead animals are frequently used in Hirst's installations, forcing viewers to consider their own and society's attitudes to death. Containers such as aquariums and vitrines are used as devices to impose control on the fragile subject-matter contained within them and as barriers between the viewer and the viewed. The animals are preserved as in life, but at the same time are emphatically dead, with their entrails and flesh exposed.

Hirst's paintings can be seen as a foil to his sculptural work, though they are similarly inconclusive. The ‘spot' paintings are named after pharmaceutical stimulants and narcotics, the chemical enhancers of human emotion, and yet take the form of mechanical and unemotional Minimalist paintings. Their detachment is further emphasised by the exploitation of procedures that can be simply carried out by assistants under his instruction. Hirst's interest in contemporary society is further reflected in collaborative pop music projects and in his designs for the Pharmacy and Quo Vadis restaurants, London. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995.

Bibliography
Freeze (exh. cat., London, Surrey Docks, 1988)
Damien Hirst (exh. cat., essay C. Hall, London, ICA, 1991–2)
Damien Hirst: No Sense of Absolute Corruption (exh. cat., essay S. Morgan, New York, Gagosian Gal., 1996)

OCTAVIA NICHOLSON
10 December 2001

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