Scalpel blades, zip stops, tattoo needles, pins, fish hooks: For his latest project, artist Damien Hirst set aside his palette knife and opted for tools of the flesh. The resulting 17 works, all cityscapes that mimic satellites’ clinical eye, paint a dark and alien picture of the seemingly familiar streets where we live and work.
Black Scalpel Cityscapes, Hirst says, are a commentary on modern surveillance’s invasive eye and modern warfare’s “surgical” drone strikes, which aim to limit collateral damage. From a distance, the paintings look like photographs; up close, the viewer can pick out materials specific to the city. For Paris, for example, Hirst included champagne caps and wire, condoms, and Eiffel Tower souvenirs.
“Every city is a fragmented place,” he tells art historian Tim Marlow in a sit-down interview. The scalpels, while devoid of color, suggest that sense of fragmentation by reflecting back the scattered light and colors of the gallery viewers.
The new project builds on Hirst’s past exploration of scalpels as a medium, with works like “Citadel” (2012), where he created mandala-like patterns using scalpel blades. “I was just kind of drawing with scalpel blades,” he says of his exploration of the form. “They have a kind of nice and nasty feel to them.”
The paintings will be on view at White Cube in São Paulo through January 31.