Image: Detail of The Eucharist (2005), Courtesy Paul Stolper Gallery © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2015

The exhibition explored the relationship between science, art and religion which has dominated Damien Hirst's 25 year career as a thought-provoking and, at times, controversial artist. First exhibited at Paul Stolper Gallery in 2005, 'New Religion', has been the subject of shows in Oslo, Moscow, Venice, Sofia, and at All Hallow's Church in London.

"I was thinking that there are four important things in life: religion, love, art and science… Of them all, science seems to be the one right now. Like religion, it provides the glimmer of hope that maybe it will be all right in the end." - Damien Hirst on New Religion, 2006 

Young British Artists

Damien Hirst first came to prominence as a leading member of the celebrated Young British Artist movement in the 1990s. This group, which included Tracy Emin, Sarah Lucas and The Chapman Brothers, were known for their openness to materials and processes, entrepreneurial attitude and shock tactics which they used to create a buzz around their exhibitions. Hirst’s most infamous piece, a shark preserved in formaldehyde entitled 'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living', embodies this desire to shock using the themes of science and mortality.

New Religion

The exhibition was made up of 44 silkscreen prints and four sculptures which moved from the Creation of the World, through the Stations of the Cross and towards the Last Judgement. These prints surrounded an altarpiece holding a cedar cross studded with gem-like pills, a child’s skull and a heart wrapped in barbed wire and pierced by needles and razor blades all cast in silver, and a large carved marble pill.

Surrounding this tabletop display was a print cycle that implied that our reliance on prescription drugs is a marriage of the sacred to the profane. A doctor’s medical chart – seemingly rational in order and structured to a grid – becomes a new way of reading the Bible.

Biblical prophecies were depicted in the exhibition through the properties of medicines and the names of the drugs that are supposed to cure people. Printed on brightly coloured backgrounds, the rational order of these 'miraculous' medicines becomes elevated to a precious, spiritual status.

Prints of individual pills further underlined these themes while other prints of a skull and a butterfly suggest the suspension of life arrested in death. Thirteen sets of the complete series of prints and sculptural objects were each held in a specially constructed large devotional display chest which was the central focal point of the exhibition, designed to evoke in visitors the feeling of being in a 'chapel’.

28 March 2015 – 5 July 2015

Images: (left to right) The Fate of Man (2005), Courtesy Paul Stolper Gallery © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2015;
The Soul on Jacob's Ladder (2005), Courtesy Paul Stolper Gallery © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2015.

As featured in Jacky Klein's top 5 unmissable spring 2015 shows for the Art Fund: