What at first instance looks like black and white aerial images of cities are actually recreations by renowned British artist Damien Hirst using a vast number of surgical instruments such as scalpels, razor blades, hooks, iron filings, stitching needles and safety-pins set against black backgrounds. These new “paintings” titled “Black Scalpel Cityscapes” were revealed in an exhibition at White Cube Gallery in São Paolo, Brazil. For this exhibition, Hirst selected 17 cities, which are either sites of recent conflict, cities relating to the artist’s own life, or centres of economic, political or religious significance. The selection includes, amongst others, Washington, DC; Rome and the Vatican City; Leeds (where the artist grew up); Beijing; Moscow; New York; and London.
With the series, Hirst investigates subjects pertaining to the sometimes-disquieting realities of modern life – surveillance, urbanisation, globalisation and the virtual nature of conflict – as well as elements relating to the universal human condition, such as our inability to arrest physical decay. “Black Scalpel Cityscapes” also make a metaphorical reference to the military procedure of ‘surgical bombing’ or ‘surgical strikes’, commonly used in modern warfare, which aims to limit collateral damage by targeting precise areas for destruction.