Concertina, 2012



Diameter: 1219 mm | 48 in
Scalpel blades and Hammerite paint on canvas
Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2013


Solo Exhibition - 2013
White Cube Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China


The ‘Scalpel Blade Paintings’ are amongst the newest series of works in Hirst's practice. Thousands of variously shaped scalpel blades are positioned on a canvas in spectacular, mandala-like patterns. Whilst some of the works remain starkly monochrome, others have intermittent areas of coloured gloss paint layered in between the blades.

The paintings reference two of Hirst’s most iconic earlier series. Their geometric patterns recall the ‘Kaleidoscope’ series which Hirst began in 2001, made using thousands of individual, different coloured, butterfly wings. In their use of surgical instruments, however, Hirst returns to one of his most recognisable themes: medicine and its inevitable futility in the face of our mortality. The precision-tooled surgical instruments were first used by Hirst in his early 90’s instrument cabinets (see ‘Still’ (1994) and ‘Naked’ (1994)), in which thousands of the objects are arranged in stainless steel cabinets in a formal and aesthetically pleasing manner. They are described by the artist as “phenomenal objects because they have to have this confidence and this belief. They are the best quality. They are brilliantly designed, for all the right reasons.”[1] With the ‘Scalpel Blade Paintings’ paintings, their inability to eventually arrest decay is further highlighted by their relegation to being merely decorative. As the artist explains, the blades: “tap into, in an awkward way, those [universal] fears [...] they make you think about the end, make you think about the fragility of your flesh. Once you treat something so dark, decoratively, you've always got that darkness inherent in it whatever it is, I could do a portrait of Mickey Mouse in scalpel blades and it's always going to make you think, we're here for a good time, not a long time.”[2]                        

The fabrication process of one of the paintings, titled ‘Destruction Dreamscape’, was previously viewable by way of the live footage streamed from Hirst’s studio. After a two month process, the construction of the work can be watched in a four minute timelapse film here.

[1] Damien Hirst cited in ‘Like People, Like Flies: Damien Hirst Interviewed’, Mirta D’Argenzio, ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy: Selected Works from 1989–2004’ (Electa Napoli, 2004), 182

[2] Damien Hirst in conversation with Tim Marlow, ‘Entomology Cabinets and Paintings, Scalpel Blade Paintings and Colour Charts’ (Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. / White Cube, 2013)