I almost regret to say so, but it remains to me that in most rooms my favourite part of the Wallace Collection is the interior design - the silk wallpaper of emerald, and dusky shades between pink and plum. This truth is sustained in the two rooms in which Damien’s Hirst exhibition No Love Lost (The Blue Paintings) is hung. The beautiful sheen of the teal striped walls does not completely quiet the famous Saatchi-prodigy’s work. The wallpaper does well to compliment the works.
The collection feels like Damien trying to get it right. It doesn’t feel purposefully exploratory or experimental, just that when the first, second, and third failed, he continued, forming an oeuvre of paintings, of which none are quite resolved or wholly pleasing. In most, one aspect of the formal properties appear to fail whether it be compositional or tonally. There was one (the painting which not labelled), which expressed the anger I imagine him to have in his inability to make it correct. Finger-like marks scratch the skull’s forehead and gauge out the eyes. Yet, not only anger, but slothfulness – he was too lazy to wipe the excess on the brush so it turned into a childish foray of paint; too lazy to get more dark blue paint on the side of the skull, which is shadowed and so the result is a that impoverished stroke that I despise so much.
Enough of what I thought, what about my fellow audience, and those that have to cope with it daily? I noted that not many paused for long. If they did, I sensed it was not out of curiosity, but wanting to appear intellectual and cultural in the way E.H.Gombrich warns in his opening chapter, as many are drawn to the admiration of art because of its cultural and/or educational status alone. Not therefore were they standing still before one, out of enjoyment, awe or wonder.
For the masterpieces in the Wallace Collection that share the air, I feel Mrs Robinson’s (by Sir Joshua Reynolds) disdain as she purposefully turns her head beyond the 90 degrees required to be in profile, so that she cannot glimpse the Damien Hirst through the archway!
There is, something about Damien’s presence as an artist. It is not just that I more frequently see the works of the old and dead masters, because on this occasion I felt a threat that while stood in front of his work judging it, that he may appear in that room behind me. That he could, and would, unannounced turn up and authoritatively check over his work…for evidence of vandals, or to argue with the traditionalist who favours Rubens. This is the modern, Saatchi-birthed and nurtured, more ballsy artist. More ballsy in ambition; the finished pieces concept and appearance; and the maker’s character. Everyone wants to see his exhibition because of him, not so much his work! He is a force to be reckoned with, and for this reasons his work and the artist he represents, is successful.
No Love Lost (Blue Paintings) is at the Wallace Collection until January 24