Damien Hirst is among the most controversial British artists to emerge in the contemporary period. Notorious for his massive sculptural works featuring dead animals afloat in Minimalist glass vitrines, he first gained recognition for organizing the now-landmark exhibition Freeze, held in 1988 in an abandoned London warehouse, which inaugurated the group known as Young British Artists (YBAs). Hirst’s underlying themes of mortality and decay are further showcased in works and installations that resemble mirrored pharmacy cabinets lined with shelves of drug bottles, another Minimalist grid structure imbued with his own iconology.
Hirst has only recently become interested in prints, although he has made several artist’s books, magazine inserts, and multiples, including album covers, cigarette-package designs, and beer-bottle labels. His first print portfolio, from 1999, used screenprint to simulate oversized labels from medicine bottles. For his second portfolio he decided to explore the more laborious technique of etching and created a tour-de-force series that stretched the medium to its limits.
Since the mid-1990s Hirst has been working in an abstract mode, pouring paint on rotating canvases attached to a spin machine he had installed in his studio. For this recent series of etchings he attached copperplates to the machine and drew on them as they spun with needles, screwdrivers, and other sharp tools, in a performance-like ritual that lasted for several days. The prints’ concentric-circle format, and the portfolio’s title, were inspired by a long-exposure photograph Hirst had taken of the night sky, showing the stars arranged in an abstract pattern. Hirst’s passionate involvement with contemporary music permeates the suite as well—from the images’ resemblance to grooved vinyl LPs to the Pop-song lyrics that appear on many of the sheets.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Wendy Weitman, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 254.