Damien Hirst @ The Tate Modern

This is an exhibition which from its very start, pushes the viewer's boundaries, and slowly delves further and further into the mind of Hirst and his views on life and death. What is most remarkable is seeing the counterpoint between his early work and that which comes later, still focusing on the same themes almost to a point of obsession, but with a change in tone or material.

Some pieces, I found, don't evoke as much; the spot paintings, for example, with their order and perfection, I found unappealing. That said, when Hirst imposes order on the objects of every day life as he does in Still and Doubt - precisely displaying medicines and medical tools - that his work truly comes alive. He talks of wanting the shark in The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living to scare people. I find the frightening order and precision of the medicine cabinets, pills, and instruments for surgery far more frightening. That which occurs in nature may frighten us, but as Hirst highlights, is simply a part of life and death. These man-made implements are outside that cycle, an attempt to tamper with the cycle of life and death, to prolong the experience and cheat the inevitable.

The most profound of Hirst's works in this exhibition was The Acquired Inability to Escape, which features a human presence of desk, chair, cigarettes, in a case similar to those displaying the formaldehyde-preserved animals. It was a stark reminder that despite the medicines and advancements of science, we too are mortal.

This exhibition is on at the Tate Modern, Southbank London to 9 September 2012.

Photo: Damien Hirst - The Acquired Inability to Escape