Fondation Cartier, a leading contemporary art museum in the heart of the 14th arrondissement of Paris, is hosting an exhibition by Damien Hirst. “Cherry Blossoms” features a series of his latest canvases and runs from July 6th until January 2022. By the time this colorful show comes to an end, we will be beginning to think once more about the renewal and restoration offered by cherry blossom as it marks a clean break from the cold and darkness of winter.
Over his long career, Damien Hirst has built his international reputation by challenging traditional approaches and not being afraid to provoke and spark debate. This is his first museum exhibition in France and he uses the opportunity to confront the landscape genre head-on by blending references from Impressionism, Pointillism and the freedom offered by Action Painting.
You really can see and feel the sense of energy and the attention to details of his work in the paintings on display. The canvases reflect the joy which flows from the visual impact of cherry trees in full blossom and Hirst has opted to use canvases on a huge scale packing each with so much color in all sorts of combinations and densities. It is intense on the eye and creates a feeling of absorption in this interpretation of the natural world. There is warmth in the work but also an awareness that beauty can be transient too.
Some of the paintings on show have strong figurative elements while others contain more than a nod to the abstract. Preparing the exhibition material has involved something close to a frenzy of endeavor for the artist as he worked to complete 107 canvases – curated down to 30 for this show.
Hirst’s career reflects his ability to adapt and to set trends which others often follow. He has pursued an evolutionary approach to his painting. While some other contemporary artists shy away from the graphic elements of art, Hirst is ready and eager to “commit to canvas” when he feels the time is right. He brings depth, perspective and richness to “Cherry Blossoms” and he has clearly enjoyed their creation. At Fondation Cartier, we can appreciate the work too. However, as he explains, there is always an element of sadness with this natural wonder as “Cherry Blossoms are about beauty, life and death”.
Now seems like an appropriate time to be contemplating the renewal of spring while reflecting on the fleeting nature of life. Like blossom, we are only here for “our season” however long that turns out to be.
Hirst finished this 3 year project in the pandemic, end of 2020. This period provided him with the opportunity to devote much more time to contemplate each work. He has thought deeply about what constitutes completeness. What we see here is an artist who will not compromise on his vision to produce compelling paintings which are on show as we all emerge from the stresses of the year which has just passed.
Like David Hockney’s colorful works of the Normandy landscape, Hirst is keen to embrace all the color of spring and the full palette of nature at its most vigorous. It is a celebration of the natural world and one of its most dramatic moments as the cherry blossoms bloom once again to lighten our mood and fill us with hope for the future. Delivered by a hand as accomplished as Hirst, you can be ready for a powerful connection with color during your visit.
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