Visual Candy and Natural History

23 November 2017 – 13 January 2018
Solo Exhibition. Gagosian, Hong Kong, China.

Installation view, ‘Visual Candy and Natural History’ at Gagosian Hong Kong, 23 November 2017 – 13 January 2018. Courtesy Gagosian. Artworks © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.

Thirty-two works from the early- to mid-nineties are on display at Gagosian’s Hong Kong gallery until 13th January 2018. The exhibition presents the colourful abstractions of the artist’s ‘Visual Candy’ paintings alongside a number of ‘Natural History’ sculptures. 

The ‘Visual Candy’ paintings – made between 1993 and 1995 – see vivid colours overlapped in loose ovals of thick impasto or repetitive, pointillist-style blots. Euphoric titles such as Wowee Zowee (1993), and Super Silly Fun (1993), reflect the informal, nostalgic painting technique with which the works were painted. This approach stands in opposition to the mechanical application of colour in Hirst’s spot paintings. The title of the series resulted from an art critic branding the spot paintings “just visual candy”, to which Hirst’s response was: “I couldn’t get it out of my head. I thought, what the fuck is wrong with visual candy?”[1] The ‘Natural History’ sculptures, glass tanks containing biological specimens preserved in formaldehyde, explore the visceral realities of scientific investigation through minimalist design. The series contains some of the artist’s most iconic pieces, and expresses what the artist has describes as: “That failure of trying so hard to do something that you destroy the thing that you’re trying to preserve”[2]

Despite their stark formal differences, the two series were made during the same period and share conceptual foundations: an exploration of the relationships between pleasure and pain, transience and permanence, logic and emotion. ‘Visual Candy and Natural History’ takes its title from Hirst’s 1993 exhibition at Regen Projects in Los Angeles.  

[1] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst, ‘I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now’ (Booth-Clibborn Editions; Reduced edition, 2005), 198

[2] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst, ‘I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now’ (Booth-Clibborn Editions; Reduced edition, 2005), 296