Critics have been largely mute about the recently opened show by Damien Hirst, presenting his newest Veil Paintings, opened on March, 1st at Gagosian, LA.
Undoubtedly one of the most commercially successful artists of our time, he is not unfamiliar with critic’s condemnation. His recent efforts in Venice, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, with the sculptural installations monstrous in size, thought and execution, picked up mixed reviews, including some critics saying it might just be the end of Hirst.
This new take on his “spot” paintings, reworked under the influence of Pierre Bonnard’s Pointillism, is certainly a shift. Soft, bright, colourful, taking from both art historical references and his previous work (taking a lot from his “Visual Candy” series from the 90-ies), reminiscent of flora and Iced Gems biscuits, they make multiple statements (or mockeries?) on contemporary painting.
They certainly borrow Bonnard’s distinctive palette, but the intensity of applying paint, the abundant, impasto texture and bubble-gum drips reference to the present. The works are made by hand and, unlike the usual Hirst, by the artist himself (he made sure everyone knew by previewing work in progress with him in studio with brush in hand and wearing slightly exaggerated clothes, splattered with paint, and hinting at Picasso), but the almost industrial scale still suggests assistants and technology involved. So what are they? A homage to Modernist painting, or a parody? Collaboration or another take on production line? Another nihilistic statement or lack of new ideas? This is how the artist himself comments on it: “I’ve always loved Bonnard and his colour. How can you not love colour? Sunlight on flowers, fuck everything else.”
Despite critics’ condemnation, both shows in Venice and LA were applauded by collectors and sold out on opening night.