Tuesday 15th May wasn’t just any Tuesday. For Beth, Claire, Laura and I, it was a Creative Juice Tuesday - an opportunity for us Finners to open our minds to new things, new ways of thinking and take in some much needed culture that London has in dollops, but that we so rarely have the chance to experience. So at 4.15pm we downed tools and toddled over to the South Bank and into the Tate Modern to take in the Damian Hirst exhibition.
First stop was the much acclaimed (so said the man at the information desk) crystal skull sculpture entitled “For the Love of God”. Imagine, if you will, four girls let out of the office early and coming across a human skull cast incrusted with £14million of flawless diamonds. And then imagine if one of those girls is Beth. Perhaps you get the drift.. After many “oohhs”, “ahhhhs” and speculations about where we could get one of our own, we headed upstairs.
The main exhibition was less slightly sparkly but none the less eye-opening. Room 1 is home to Hirst’s first ever iconic Spot Paining, 8 brightly coloured pans on a white wall, a picture of Hirst posing with a decapitated head and an up-turned hairdryer delicately balancing a ping-pong ball. We were all broadly familiar with Hirst’s work, but had purposely tried to avoid reading the critical reviews before we arrived, so this combination certainly set the scene.
In the next room, we were greeted by a large glass box in which Hirst plays out the life-cycle. Maggots hatch, develop into flies and feed on a severed cows head. Many get zapped on the “insect-o-cutor”, the rest fly around the enclosed space until their time on this earth is over. We got it - sort of.. The triviality of life - over in the blink of an eye. We wondered what happened to all the dead flies (this piece of the exhibition has been going since 1990), and found our answer in one of the later rooms - a large black spot, perhaps 3metres in diameter, thickly covered in dead flies. Hmmm..
The healthcare girls perused the Medicine Cabinets trying to spot drug names they were familiar with through the ages, but despite reading the background guide, I don’t think we really understood the art factor there. That said, others stood transfixed looking through the cabinets, so it goes to show what appeals to one is lost on another.
Claire enjoyed pointing out the major organs of the dissected cow - trying to guess if it was a male or female based on its udder size. Beth got in trouble for trying to rescue a dying butterfly. Laura and I pondered the 6ft ash tray half-filled with cigarette ends and wondered just how many of the cigarettes Hirst had smoked himself.
We enjoyed the structure of the spot paintings and the simplicity of the cabinets filled with perfectly aligned rows of pills, cigarette ends and diamonds. By accident, we went through the rooms in reverse order, which we later decided Hirst would probably have quietly approved of.
Some of the pieces challenged our thinking, others inspired us.. It was a great opportunity to actually experience this acclaimed artist’s works first hand, and although we didn’t necessary “get” a lot of the explanations, we found the majority fascinating to observe at and often beautiful in a way we hadn’t anticipated. All in all, a creatively juicy experience!
For more information, check out the Tate Modern site.