Take Art: Damien Hirst
I think, as with a lot of things, the Young British Artists, as they were known, are easy to look at and assess from a perspective that is not barraged by so much hype. I think at the time so much of the talk about the pieces was coloured by people reacting against the publicity machine surrounding the people whose work came under that umbrella. Half the time it didn’t seem that their problem was with the work, more that they wanted to prove something to these young upstarts about what art really was. The thing is they would always come at them with such outmoded concepts — things buried by the likes of Duchamp and the Dadaists, that they were the ones that seemed faintly ridiculous. Damien Hirst was the biggest star so consequently got hit by the largest amount of flak. When you step back from all that bullshit that was flung at his work what emerges? An intelligent and coherent aesthetic is what becomes evident to me. I will admit I did not see the totality of the vision until I purchased I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now and I could sit there and study the ouevre of a man who has been written for practices that were established by old masters — having apprentices help with the actual manufacture of the pieces. Think of Warhol — would anyone argue that the mass produced items the factory turned out were his? Hirst is hands on but is also an idea man. Is an architect any less of an artist because he doesn’t construct his building? It seemed people were almost unwilling to engage some pieces that Hirst produced as actual works of art. You study your Gombrich, you go to a few galleries and get the apparent low-down from a few talking heads on what art means and then you go and pull some bullshit like the guy from Good Will Hunting. Or you are an established art critic and the new art requires you to think around a subject in a new way — you are lazy, so what do you do? Attack its credibility as art. If it isn’t art you don’t have to critique it, do you? I think, from the animals in formaldehyde to the current work with the crystal skulls, Hirst is always trying to say something — to poke at the human condition. If someone comes at something from an angle that I am unused to and it make me uncomfortable perhaps I am odd in that it makes me want to explore the idea. If something can rock your universe then it must be saying something worthwhile, if not profound. If it makes you take a step back does it not at least deserve the courtesy of a second look? I’d recommend buying the book as a doorway in. Doorways are thrown up in odd places. I really started to click with Warhol when I heard Songs For Drella by Lou Reed and John Cale — they really hipped me to some of the possible thought processes behind Andy’s work. Hirst’s book did the same for me with his work and I am so glad I forked out what might have been considered an exorbitant amount for it at the time.