‘How Can You Not Love Color?’: Damien Hirst Explains How Bonnard Inspired His New Gagosian Show
Damien Hirst embraces Post-Impressionism—with an Ab-Ex twist.
Damien Hirst has offered a sneak peek into a new body of work, titled the “Veil Paintings,” set to debut at Gagosian Beverly Hills next month. The multi-colored paintings, Hirst revealed, are inspired by Post-Impressionist French artist Pierre Bonnard.
“I’ve always loved Bonnard and his color,” Hirst said in an Instagram post. (His account has become more personal of late.) “I went to see a show at the Pompidou in Paris of [Willem] de Kooning and Bonnard when I was a student and both artists blew me away.”
The artist wasn’t shy about the “Veil” works’ relationship to their inspiration. “They’re like like big abstract Bonnard paintings, I’ve been playing with the scale and the big ones feel perfect. How can you not love color?” he wrote. “Sunlight on flowers, fuck everything else.”
The profusion of overlapping colored dots certainly hearkens back to Bonnard, as well as Georges Seurat and Pointillism, but they also have clear roots in Hirst’s own work. Made between 1993 and ’95, Hirst’s “Visual Candy” paintings also played with gestural abstraction, filling his canvases with large colored blobs of paint in different sizes. One work, in particular, Super Happy Happy Dabby, with its smaller, more evenly sized brushstrokes, is a clear jumping off point for the new series.
“A veil is a barrier, a curtain between two things, something that you can look at and pass through, it’s solid yet invisible and reveals and yet obscures the truth, the thing that we are searching for,” said Hirst of the “Veil Paintings” in a statement issued by the gallery.
It will be the first US show at Gagosian for Hirst since his return to the gallery in 2016 following a more than three-year separation. The reunion took place just ahead of that year’s Frieze New York, where Gagosian dedicated its entire booth to the British artist. Hirst’s last outing at the gallery’s Los Angeles location was in 2012 when the “The Complete Spot Paintings” took over every one of Gagosian’s then-11 worldwide locations with 331 of the over 1,000 works in the series.
Hirst currently has a solo show featuring the “Visual Candy” works at Gagosian Hong Kong, on view through March 3. Another new body of work, the “Colour Space” canvases, will debut next month at Houghton Hall in Norfolk, UK. The Old Master works typically on view in the ornate British mansion will be replaced with 250 Hirsts featuring over 4 million dots, collectively.
On Instagram, the artist compared the new pieces to his first explorations of the now famous “Spot Painting” style, which were much freer and looser than the precise, almost mechanical paintings we know today.
“At the time I painted it, it felt uncool and I abandoned it immediately for the rigidity of the grid, removing the mess,” wrote Hirst, who has recently felt the urge to revisit that abandoned direction. “I originally wanted the ‘Spots’ to look like they were painted by a human trying to paint like a machine. ‘Colour Space’ is going back to the human element, so instead, you have the fallibility of the human hand in the drips and inconsistencies.”
“Damien Hirst: The Veil Paintings” is on view at Gagosian Beverly Hills, 456 North Camden Drive, Los Angeles, March 1–April 14, 2018.
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