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From 28 March – 5 July 2015 The Lightbox gallery and museum, Woking are hosting ‘Damien Hirst: New Religion’, an exhibition of Hirst’s silkscreen prints and sculptural editions, in association with Paul Stolper Gallery and The British Council. The exhibition explores the relationship between science, art and religion that has dominated Damien Hirst’s 25-year career as a thought-provoking and at times controversial artist. First exhibited at Paul Stolper Gallery in 2005, 'New Religion', has been the subject of shows in Oslo, Moscow, Venice, Sofia, and at All Hallow's Church in London.
I was thinking that there are four important things in life: religion, love, art and science… Of them all, science seems to be the one right now. Like religion, it provides the glimmer of hope that maybe it will be all right in the end.
Damien Hirst on New Religion, 2006
Young British artists
Damien Hirst first came to prominence as a leading member of the ‘young British artists’ movement in the 1990s. This group, which included Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas and The Chapman Brothers, were known for their openness to materials and processes, entrepreneurial attitude and shock tactics which they used to create a buzz around their exhibitions. Hirst’s work, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a shark preserved in formaldehyde, embodies this desire to shock using the themes of science and mortality.
The exhibition is made up of 44 silkscreen prints and four sculptures which move from the Creation of the World, through the Stations of the Cross and towards the Last Judgement. These prints surround an altarpiece holding a cedar cross studded with gem-like pills, a child’s skull and a heart wrapped in barbed wire and pierced by needles and razor blades all cast in silver, and a large carved marble pill.
Surrounding this tabletop display is a print cycle that implies our reliance on prescription drugs is a marriage of the sacred to the profane. A doctor’s medical chart – seemingly rational in order and structured to a grid – becomes a new way of reading the Bible.
Biblical prophecies are depicted in the exhibition through the properties of medicines and the names of the drugs that are supposed to cure us. Printed on brightly coloured backgrounds the rational order of these ‘miraculous’ medicines becomes elevated to a precious, spiritual status.
Prints of individual pills further underline these themes while other prints of a skull and a butterfly suggest the suspension of life arrested in death. Thirteen sets of the complete series of prints and sculptural objects will each be held in a specially constructed large devotional display chest which will be the central focal point of the exhibition which is designed to evoke in visitors the feeling of being in a ‘chapel’.
‘Damien Hirst: New Religion’ is on show at The Lightbox, Woking, UK until 5 July 2015. For further information please visit The Lightbox’s website
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