Hirst Impressions

Herself and Himself – me in conversation with Damien Hirst’s work, outside the Tate Modern, Southbank, London, April 2012. – Photo Amelia Nunes


Art begets art. A meeting between like-minded artists often results in a cross pollination of ideas which inspire, progress and crystallise art projects. Such an exchange can be an intended collaboration, or it can be an ego driven ‘anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better’ brandishing. And it hardly matters which,  so long as art ultimately benefits.

Likewise, great inspiration can be found in complementary art forms. A poet can conjure new ideas from a dance; a musician can be moved to compose by a script. I a primarily a writer of prose fiction but as an Art College alumna – when I’m looking for inspiration, I go to an art gallery.

I went with a housemate on a field trip to London last week to see the Damien Hirst retrospective at the Tate Modern, the Picasso at the Tate Britain and the Freud at the National Portrait Gallery. All three were fruitful visits but, it was Hirst that had me stunned and flushed with ideas.

I’d seen Hirst’s ‘Shark’ before and was struck then by the concept that the creature did not know he was dead. The retrospective examines death in more detail. Death, an inevitable aspect of life, is not morbid in Hirst’s world, however. Rather it is presented as a beautiful  climax (Diamond Skull). Dead butterflies are arranged in stunning giant mosaics reminiscent of great stained glass windows. Even a grand wall-size black circular ‘sun’, composed of a million dead flies has all the elegance and plush luxury of a carpet fit for the feet of kings. Life/death – this complementary nature of opposites runs throughout the artist’s work. The mundane, even ugly are elevated to beautiful objets d’art. A classically sculpted marble angel reveals insides weird and devilish. A dead, fly infested cow’s head celebrates life cycles. Hirst’s work tells us that opposites need each other to exist. Opposites are each other. Rock it, Damien.

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About suehealy

Multi award winning Irish writer/playwright Sue Healy’s work has been supported and developed by the Abbey Theatre, the Peggy Ramsay Foundation, the Heinrich Boll Association and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. Her 2016 play ‘Brazen Strap’ ran at the King’s Head Theatre, funded by Arts Council England. Her work has also shown at the Hackney Attic and Etcetera Theatres in London. Sue’s nine radio dramas have broadcast on BBC Radio 4, WLRfm, KCLR96fm. A UEA Creative Writing MA alumna, she spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. Presently, she is London-based, researching a PhD on the Royal Court Theatre. Sue is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre. View all posts by suehealy

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