Few artists have captured the public’s imagination quite like Damien Hirst whose extraordinary skill both as a showman and artist has helped create a celebrity persona unlike anything else the world has seen before. Whether he is undermining the entire art market with a direct to auction house sale of his work, appearing in a number one hit song or shocking the world with his take on modern society, Hirst’s work is always visceral and fiercely intelligent. Owing to his willingness to challenge the boundaries of science, art and popular culture, it is never anything other than visually arresting and impossible to ignore.
His limited editions are worthy of an in-depth study on their own. Direct, at times even brutal, it is unnerving the extent to which Hirst manages to capture in them so precisely the heroic malaise of contemporary life. The limited edition format allows him to tackle the great themes of life, death, love, and betrayal but their less grandiose demands enables him to concentrate on conveying what is important in the work, and reducing his compulsion to always shock his audience.

Left: Damien Hirst, The Cure - Powder Pink/Lollypop Red/Golden Yellow, 2014, Silkscreen. Right: Damien Hirst, The Cure - Vivid Blue/Cloudy Pink/Candy Floss Pink, 2015, Silkscreen

Damien Hirst’s limited edition artworks are available to buy on fineartmultiple.

Reminiscent of the Pop Art aesthetic made famous by Andy Warhol, Hirst’s silkscreen print series The Cure comments on our modern worship of the pharmaceutical industry. This modern suppressant is actually an addictive opiate with a potentially high risk of abuse. In sequence the works become a symbol of our sanitized world, where pain is neutered and feeling numbed, all presented in the optimistic colors of an ambivalent “cure”.

Left: Damien Hirst, The Souls IV - Westminster Blue/Silver Gloss, 2010. Right: Damien Hirst, The Souls II - Loganberry Pink/Westminster Blue/Blind Impression, 2010

Damien Hirst’s limited edition series The Souls returns to a recurring theme throughout his work, that of the thrilling but unpalatable proximity between life and death. Butterflies have always fascinated the artist, because, according to him, even when dead, they somehow look alive. Hirst envisaged that these works should be hung in clusters, the image of a swarm of souls intensified by his use of the foil block technique that blazes in the light. Hirst has never been an artist to disguise his methodology, as he asserts, “I think rather than be personal you have to find universal triggers: everyone’s frightened of glass, everyone’s frightened of sharks, everyone loves butterflies.”

Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 2013, Lenticular print

Hirst’s limited edition The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living commemorates what has become one of the most celebrated, reviled, and iconized images in popular culture. When Hirst first conceived of the sculpture, while still a student at Goldsmiths, he would have little idea of its impact on contemporary art and his eventual role as the focal point of the YBA movement. The title of the work came to Hirst as “just a statement that I had used to describe the idea of death to myself”. Hirst knew there was no point producing a lightbox or a painting of a shark. If he really wanted to frighten the viewer he needed to provide an illusion of life and he achieved this by preserving a shark carcass in formaldehyde.

Left: Damien Hirst, Studio Half Skull, face on, 2009, Silkscreen. Right: Damien Hirst, Studio Half Skull, half face, 2009, Silkscreen

With Hirst, death is not just round the corner, but already behind you, with a bony hand hovering above your shoulder. During his student days Hirst worked in a mortuary, famously photographing himself beside human corpses. Always at ease with death he has taken the most renowned memento mori, a skull, and allowed it to seemingly pick up the chaotic blotches and smudges of paint from his studio. His use of diamond dust in the background inverts his landmark work, For the Love of God, 2007, which contained over 8,691 diamonds encrusted into a skull and sold for £50 million at auction.
His limited edition silkscreens encapsulate Hirst’s willingness in tackling the gritty themes of life, but his courage too, in ridiculing our own inability to face up to them.

Left: Damien Hirst, Dead Black Utopia, 2012, Inkjet photo. Right: Damien Hirst, Dark Black Heaven (Nite Time), 2012, Inkjet photo

Hirst’s limited edition prints, Dead Black Utopia, and Dark Black Heaven (Nite Time), return to one of his favored themes, that of tranquilization and society’s reliance on mood-altering chemicals—but they embody too a kind of fetishisation of decadent urban living. We now have the power to change our states of mind in a matter of minutes—uppers and downers are now freely available and liberally prescribed. What Damien Hirst manages to depict so successfully is the repetitive, monochrome starkness of the pills so neatly arranged in the cabinet. Their slick and orderly presentation belies a populous conflicted by the demands of inner city life—no longer able to regulate themselves without external influence.

By Duncan Ballantyne-Way – Senior Editor