Damien Hirst is one of the most successful artists alive and working today in England, if not the entire world. Since he emerged on the British arts scene in the 1990s as part of the Young British Artists (YBA) movement spearheaded by Charles Saatchi and his influential Saatchi Gallery, Hirst has moved from triumph to triumph, with ever-increasing paychecks dotting his progress.
Although much of Hirst's work is considered "dark" in the sense that it is obsessed with death and the process of decay, none of his work has struck me as being particularly "paracultural" in the way that, say, Matthew Barney's work most definitely is. By "paracultural", I mean work that involves certain factors, modalities of thought, and/or key players that fall outside the realm of so-called respectable, mainstream discourse, existing in a kind of witchy, pan-paradigmatic, Jungian Twilight Zone, where it’s okay if the concepts being explored are half-baked, the gestalt half-gelled.
Perhaps this is why I was so pleasantly surprised by Hirst's latest effort, Verity, a titanic (66') bronze-clad statue of a partially-skinned, pregnant female stabbing a great sword straight into the sky above. Aside from being an intriguing visual object - particularly impressive are the lush, almost chocolaty smoothness of the anatomical details - it also seems to reference both his own earlier work (particularly The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living) and the world-famous Body Worlds travelling exhibition of posthumously "plastinated" human beings in various poses. It also stands as a fine exemplar of the lower order of colossi.
From Hirst's own site:
Verity is an allegory for truth and justice. Her stance is taken from Edgar Degas’s ‘Little Dancer of Fourteen Years’ (c. 1881). An anatomical cross-section of her head and torso reveal her skull and the developing foetus inside her womb. Verity stands on a base of scattered legal books and holds the traditional symbols of Justice – a sword and scales. ... She was fabricated in bronze in over 40 individual sand castings at Pangolin Editions foundry, in Gloucestershire. Her phosphor-bronze surface is 20 millimetres thick and her internal support structure is a single piece of stainless steel. The sculpture is weather and lightning-proof and underwent extensive wind-tunnel-testing to ensure her capability of withstanding the force of high winds and sea spray. After two years of planning and production, Verity arrived in Ilfracombe in three parts in October 2012. After a week’s assembly on site, the sculpture was hoisted into final position using a 250 tonne crane.For more images and details of the sculpture's fabrication, please click here.