Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Damien Hirst: Does ‘Human Skull in Space’ Capture the Origin of Species?

Human Skull in Space (oil on canvas) by Damien Hirst. The painting is the cover art for the 150th anniversary edition of Darwin's On the Origin of Species.

Damien Hirst is a fan of Charles Darwin-- so much so that he has created the cover art for the 150th anniversary edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Hirst has stated that he loves the “contentious aspects” of On the Origin of Species and has noted that Darwin’s controversial theories have served as an inspiration for his art. Hirst agreed without hesitation when asked by Penguin Books to create the cover art for On the Origin of Species-- which will replace the existing 1968 edition of the book. The Hirst painting, titled ‘Human Skull in Space’ has sparked some debate over how well it depicts the views of Darwin.

Hirst has stated that the painting is a “nod to the scientific”. Of the painting Hirst has said, “The painting sits firmly in the tradition of "still life" and is made up of objects I've come to imbue with my own meanings, some of them Darwinian in origin, and that I guess are seen in other areas of my work. The painting has an X-ray-like quality to it, as if it is revealing something about the structure of the objects painted. I suppose the work, in a modest way, acknowledges Darwin’s analytical mind and his courage to believe in those ideas that questioned the very fabric of existence and belief in his time.” However, not everyone shares the view of Hirst concerning his painting and its link to Darwin.

Some interesting comments have been made concerning the choice of using a Damien Hirst painting as the cover. One commenter stated, “would a nice picture of Darwin not have sufficed? Or leave it like previous editions with just a plain cover. I expect that the vast majority of the audience will be those scientifically minded enough to be embarrassed to have that mess on their book shelf”. Another commenter mentioned, “Damien Hirst is a phenomenon of irony as marketing, Darwin reveals the organic beauty of truth. Putting them together is like Laurel and Hardy.” Others suggested that the cover art is an “insult to Darwin and science.“-- while another asked, “What's next - a birthday serenade by Britney Spears?”.

Darwin aside, what are your thoughts on ‘Human Skull in Space’? Does the painting come together nicely or does it fall short?
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange


jafabrit said...

Has a Francis Bacon feel to it.

jafabrit said...

it works for me, the dots representing connecting the dots, the xray for unearthing what lies beneath. Some commentators are perhaps assuming people seeing the cover will just know who the artist is, or would even care. do people really give that much notice to book covers anyway?

Balhatain said...

Hi Jafabrit, I have to agree-- reminds me of Bacon. As far as Hirst goes I must say that I like this painting. True, it is not complex, but I don't think that is what he was going for.