Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Anatomy of an Angel by Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst, who is an internationally recognised British artist who majority works in works in sculptures and interrelation piece.  We constantly see the repetition of death though his work and is famous for his ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ 1991 (A shark concealed in a Formaldehyde Solution). This was displayed at the Tate Modern last year with serial other pieces of his work.
In September last year while working in London I was able to go and see his expedition there, one piece got my attention, ‘The Anatomy of an Angel’.  This Sculpture shows an angel sat on a rock with sections of her flesh removed revealing its anatomy. Hirst based this piece on Alfred Boucher’s sculpture ‘L'Hirondelle’ which also is of an angel sat on a rock. Hirst made his version of Boucher’s ‘L’Hirondelle’ to show that the imagery of an angel maybe not be as powerful and as holy as religion states, showing that on the inside they are the same as humanity.  
The concept with religion is presented through the angelic statue that shows how society values religion in the different periods. Religion in the 1920’s when the ‘L’Hirondelle’ was created was facing a battle with education and feminism in society. This in comparison to modern society, religion and education are now found on a level playing flied. Even though 84% of the world’s population (to the Washington times) are still religious, we find its not dominating our culture as it did. Hirst altered the ‘L’Hirondelle’ to show that we as humans are the same on the inside of the creatures called angels in the bible. Whether he does this in his own religious beliefs is unknown, however though my research and discovering that he was once religious, I’d say it represents his loss of faith by comparing us with the imagery of an angle.
As stated above the continue battle between evolution and religion is continued in Hirst’s piece of work. When looking into the religious aspect to the piece I’ve found myself asking ‘If there is biology to religion and how religion explains it?’ From the information found on the creation of the angels as a race, we can not specify when or how they came to be. Only that like humanity they were made in god’s image. It’s also clear that they weren’t created in the same 6 days in which the Earth and humanity were. Therefore this could lead to the evidence that angels were in fact created in humanities image however with improved abilities and Devine intervention.  This supports Hirst with his sculpture and his ideas on how angels and humanity are alike.
The sculpture fits well with the types of images the younger generations are facing through different aspects of their lives. Today’s cultures we find are centred on mythology meeting reality, which in themselves are opposites. We see this through the types of literature being written and the television and film that are being shown. The sculpture is a perfect example of this with the way Hirst is showing us how we have the anatomy the same as the angel. Bring down the walls between humanity and the mythical, just as today’s generation is being shown through the media.
We can also look into how modern society considers beauty, personality and stereotypes. The angel itself is figured in how artist have imaged them in most drawings and paintings, not following the exact description of them from the bible, ‘living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings.’ This could have been done so that the audience of these painting would follow and aim to look and act like what they were viewing. This is exactly the case In Boucher’s work; he was trying to show how people should behave with all aspects of their lives, instead of rebelling from the religious ways. We can see again that Hirst argues against this by showing we are all alike under the flesh. However he still uses a stereotypical beautify and angelic image of a women to do this.
On Hirst continual theme of death we can see that the angel has been dissected like most of his work. Allowing the audience to see the mechanics of the creatures and how they work. Now anyone with a basic level of biology will know the general layout to the human body. Making it clear the anatomy is the same as ours. Not only this we our shown the angels bones and a section of its skull, this in particular is something that collected my attention. This is because within death and decay it’s the bones which are left for many years after, allowing us in the future to look back and make the past reality with the findings. The sculpture makes it clear that when the flesh and the organs are gone and we are left with bones, there is no difference between anybody. Which is why Hirst’s continue comparison comes down to the face in death we are all the same.
Overall with Hirst’s sculpture, the beauty and elegance of the piece is remarkable. The biggest questions are found when studying it closer and looking into the history, however this is hidden under the simply design and posture of the angel. This was all possibly done to show the simple message of we are all alike, from showing the history of ‘L’Hirondelle’ being used to make people follow a normality by being religious, then with Hirst peeling away the layers to show them that with everything happening was just natural progress within society. The piece still holds an elegance in which I haven’t seen before and appeals to me because of the culture I’ve been surrounded by (mythology meeting reality). However from the research I’ve found myself conflicted by its religious meaning, holding no actuate description of an angel or fitting into an opinion of any of the sides mentioned.