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Biopsy paintings

, 2012

‘<M132/818 Cancer of Fat Cells, LM_SPL.JPG>’, detail. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012

“Art’s about life and it can’t really be about anything else … there isn’t anything else.”[1] 

The ‘Biopsy Paintings’ were first shown in the exhibition ‘Beyond Belief’ at White Cube, London, in 2007. The series takes as its subject the results of biopsies conducted on diseased cells. The images are taken from science photo libraries, then inkjet or silkscreen-printed onto canvas before being worked on by the artist with paint and collage. The titles derive from each biopsy’s complete digital name.

The attractive colours of the canvas surface in the work are, on closer examination, variously furnished with broken glass, human hair, teeth, needles, pins, fish hooks and scalpel blades. Hirst previously addressed the conflict between dark subject matter and appealing visual image in ‘When Logics Die’ (1991). Of the pathology photographs used in these early mixed media works, he explains that they are: “completely delicious, desirable images of completely unacceptable and undesirable things”.[2] In a similar manner, the ‘Biopsy Paintings’ “pull you in and then push you away”.[3]



[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), 20–21

[2] ibid., 21

[3] Damien Hirst cited in ‘An Interview’, Hans Ulrich Obrist, ‘Beyond Belief’ (Other Criteria/White Cube, 2008), 26