‘It Seemed Really Tacky’: Why Damien Hirst Loves Painting Cherry Blossoms Now—and What They Have to Do With Death

The new works are an outgrowth of his series of "Veil Paintings."

Damien Hirst with one of his new cherry blossom paintings. Photo by Prudence Cummings Associates ©Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.

Damien Hirst has reemerged from the shipwreck of his 2017 mega-show of barnacle-encrusted mermaids and monsters, “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable,” to start in on a new body of work that takes on a radically different theme: cherry blossoms.

The new body of work grew out of his “Veil Paintings,” a profusion of colorful dots inspired by post-Impressionist French artist Pierre Bonnard that saw the artist personally take up the brush after years of relying predominantly on studio assistants.

The more Hirst looked at those works, which debuted last spring in a sold-out show at Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles, the more they started to look like flowers. “I just thought: ‘Oh my God, I wonder if I could just do cherry blossoms,'” the artist told the Art Newspaper. “It seemed really tacky, like a massive celebration, and also the negative, the death side of things.”

Though he felt like they looked like “bad versions of Hockneys” at first, Hirst kept working at it, arriving at a style that seemed halfway between abstract and representational. Now, his goal is to complete 90 works in the series, including a number of multi-panel triptychs and diptychs.

Hirst is in talks to show the new paintings at museums in Paris and Rome, but there are no concrete plans as of yet. He says that’s a departure from how he’s worked in the past, when he’s made arrangements to show new work before it’s finished.

“You’re halfway through the series, and then suddenly you’re rushing for a show instead of finishing the series and working out what you want to do,” he told TAN. “That didn’t feel right. I thought, I’ve got to complete the series and feel happy with everything first. And that was a new way of thinking for me. Now I make, fabricate, document, complete a series, and then work out what I want to do with it. So, you keep the creating away from the promotion or whatever. It’s what I did with the ‘Veils’ and it worked brilliantly.”

See photos of his new work below.

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