Damian Hirst’s – The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of someone living, 1990.
I remember seeing this piece, alongside many others, at the a Tate modern exhibition quite a few years ago now. There were so many animals in formaldehyde, I did not know what to make of it. Clever, I thought, perhaps innovative, and certainly well displayed. But what of death and decay. It was confusing seeing an animal fully intact, but dead. Often you see taxidermy, but they are so obviously dead. This was different, it was real.
I feel torn by this piece, both emotionally and spiritually. Death is so final, yet it feels like perhaps it doesn’t have to be. The impermanence of life. It’s sad, but beautiful at the same time, that such vitality of a creature can remain, although dead.
I think this piece is about our perception of death,a very hard concept to realize. It entices all sorts of emotions, whether you have lost someone close, or you love animals, and feel sorry that they have died, especially in the name of art ( I don’t know if that’s the case). Is there a greater purpose, or just science. The preserving of this animals bring up other ideas of trying to stop time, and decay, or in human’s, getting older.
The title hits me hard. It hasn’t been a month since I watched my mother in law die. Her body so cold like stone, with no more life force inside. So still, yet you can’t help but think you’d see her chest move, or feel like adding more blankets. Last week I found my cat dead on my doorstep, she ingested rat poison. Her normal pliable body lay completely stiff as a board, but strangely still warm, because of the heat of the morning. These two images are embedded in my mind, the way we see death in our own life.
Edwaert Collier – Still Life with a volume of Wither’s ‘Emblemes’, 1696
When looking at this painting the first word that comes into my mind is “altar”. An alter which represents someones life, loves, passions, joys, and treasures. The contrast of light on the forefront of this painting illuminates the presence, as the dark sinister background, with the skull, shadows over.
It makes me feel quite joyful, a life well lived, with many pleasures of life, fortunate to behold. The richness of the colours and use of texture, especially the suppleness of the tablecloth, the reflection of light in the gloss of the wood, and the shiny grapes and metal, make it look for life-like.
I thing this painting, again, is looking at the inevitability of death, but at the same time is celebrating life.
The word emblems in the title refers, I suppose to the symbols in the painting. You cannot take these material objects with you to the afterlife, only in life can you hold such pleasures.