Around 2006 or 7 I went back to painting in a small studio shed in my garden, it was dark and dingy and I was lost when I started. I was painting this old skull I had over and over agin and using cardboard and making patterns with the texture of it. I made myself some butterfly shaped stamps too. These paintings felt awkward and retro like ‘50s Bacons or something but it was something I had to do. . I was painting in my shed when I found out my friend had committed suicide, his uncle called me and told me and the paintings then became a whole lot darker. I called the whole series ‘The After Beautiful Paintings’ because when someone close to you takes their own life the world gets darker and doesn’t go back. It’s a nasty business but I suppose you just have to think that without horror there couldn’t be beauty, it’s not much solace though when you’re in the thick of it. . This is ‘Skull Painting with Butterflies’ from 2007
This is a floating wall ball piece from my Mental Escapology series. 15 floating ping pong balls on jets of air. This series is all about love and its intricacies I guess, it’s magical and makes something amazing out of nothing! And it feels like it’s beyond physics and gravity but it can also look like cheap fairground bollox! . This is Opposites Attract from 2012.
You can’t see it well in this picture but the surface of this painting is silver, I made the silver butterfly painting works around the time of the big Sotheby’s auction and they all had ‘Judas’ in the title because he chose money over loyalty and he basically preferred money to Jesus, it’s a sad fact that lots of people do choose money over loyalty or love, and that’s why we feel the humanity of Judas. . The church has always been inextricably linked with money, you can tell by how much they spend on their interior designs, they tell you that you can’t take your money with you when you die as they pass the plate the round in the service! But fuck that I’m definitely taking mine with me! Haha . This is Judas and Money from 2008
In 2008 I made a few spin paintings with 3D skulls coming out of the canvas. There’s only ever been one idea in art and that is WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING HERE? It’s not even a question because there’s no answer it’s just a dumb fat immovable question that just sits there laughing at us, like the dumb skull in this painting pretending it’s revealing the transience in all things but actually it’s revealing nothing and locking us out of any meaningful understanding. Any way fuck this shit and get to the pub! . This work’s called ‘Beautiful Imploding Rainbow of Death Painting’ and it’s from 2008.
I made this spin painting with gold paint and red butterflies and diamonds. I sold it at a charity auction organised by the Goss Michael Foundation in 2011. . This is called ‘Beautiful Magnificent Gossipmonger, Rumour Mill Painting (with Diamonds and Butterflies)’ and it’s from 2007
I suppose it's nature that makes nasty frightening things look beautiful close up. I think it might also be true that if you live long enough everybody gets cancer. Anyway that's my cheery thought for the day and it's why I think we need beautiful and colourful paintings of nasty hard to accept things like this.
Lemons don't last a long time and were quite expensive back in the day so they were used to represent wealth and death in the Renaissance. I only found that out after I started to paint them with skulls - I just like the colour and the sourness. . This is ‘Skull Painting with Lemon’ from 2007
On some of my butterfly paintings with metallic paint I also painted over the butterflies rather than placing them on top. They looked amazing, like they were encased in copper. . This is from 2008 it’s called ‘Time of Argos’
Not everyone remembers this but Dismas and Gestas were the 2 criminals who were crucified on either side of Christ when he died (for our sins.) A lot of people think it was Barabbas but he was the one who was freed when the crowd were given a choice to let someone go and didn’t pick Jesus. It was nice for the Lord to die for our sins, wasn’t it? (Ignore the frames they aren’t part of the art) . This is ‘Jesus Christ, Dismas and Gestas’ and it’s from 2008.
This is another work I made for the suite I did in the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas. It can hang from the ceiling or go on the wall, ever get scared you’ve got a skeleton inside you? . This is from 2018 and it’s called ‘Here For a Good Time Not a Long Time’
Maybe I was thinking about facing the horror in the world all around me like Warhol’s disaster paintings while I was making these paintings, all using images of fatal human cancers. This could be entered into a competition for the world’s longest and most hard to remember title for a painting, what the fuck was I thinking? . This is ‘Second Series Biopsy: M122/323, M122/324-Breast_cancer_cells,_scanning_electron_micrograph-SPL.jpg’ from 2008.
Judecca is one of the 4 sections of Cocytus, which is one of the rivers in the Underworld in Dante’s Inferno. It’s named after Judas Iscariot and it was where traitors to masters and benefactors were banished for eternity. . This is ‘Judecca’ and I made it in 2012
Your country needs you! The blind leading the blind.
This is a piece I made for a show called ‘The Beautiful Afterlife’ at Bruno Bischofberger in 1997. It’s an 8ft cube cut in two, there’s rain inside with male and female decoy ducks floating in the water, the kind that are used by hunters to attract other ducks to be shot. The umbrella is meant to be for protection from the rain. This work was supposed to be about love and fame and fake bollocks and all the danger surrounding it. . This is ‘Tears For Everybody Looking at You’ from 1997.
Another fact painting from my series Myths, Legends and Monsters. I made 2 versions of this. It’s the ebola virus, they say if and when (and it’s inevitable) a strain becomes airborne though evolution it could wipe out 9/10 of the population – nice virus oh lordy, think I’m gonna stay in! . This is ‘Ebola’ from 2012 to 2014.
I made 2 series of biopsy paintings, this one is from the second series. The main difference between them is that the second series uses more powerful magnification from bigger electron microscopes to see actual cells in action. Also I started throwing paint around a bit too and being gestural like Jackson Pollock. I used scalpel blades and broken glass in both series too. . This is ‘Second Series Biopsy: M132/176-Hairy_Cell_Leukaemia,_scanning_electron_micrograph-SPL.jpg’ from 2010
I made a small series of 12 large paintings and a few smaller ones using butterfly wings to create an image of a butterfly in each. A lot of my work has its roots in a kind of Victorian-era aesthetic, not really sure why that seems surprising. . This is from 2008 it’s called ‘Papilio Ulysses’
In Roman mythology Cacus was a fire breathing giant and the son of Vulcan. He was killed by Hercules. . This is a painting from my series of entomology paintings or bug paintings, I showed them in Hong Kong at White Cube gallery in 2013. Did you know that there are roughly 70 times the weight of bugs on earth than humans? I got the idea for this series after watching a rerun of Raiders of the Lost Ark, that scene where he’s crawling inside the temple covered in creepy crawlies. . This is Cacus from 2012.
“Now this is proper art what makes ya think! It moves ont ceiling and gets yer attention. Why can’t all yer art be like this you know entertaining n that for people who don’t know about art, n summat to talk about int pub!!” . I made 2 of these rotating fish mobiles with electric motors. This one’s in a law firm in Holborn and the other’s in Mark Hix’s restaurant in Soho. . This is Neither Here Nor There from 2012.
“I don’t know a lot about art but I know what I like and what I don’t. Don’t know why I like this though are kid but I do, there’s a lot o’ bloody rubbish out there lad but this is better than most of it!” . This is a black scalpel grid painting from 2012. I used the scalpel blades the same way I’d been using butterfly wings in other paintings, mainly the butterfly kaleidoscopes. Making symmetrical patterns. I started these but didn’t totally complete some of them, I mean I didn’t fill the whole painted area with blades and I picked a point where there was still a black background but the painting still looked finished and was somehow powerful. I was drawing with the scalpel blades really. . This is Supreme Being from 2012.
“This is pretty if ya like that kinda thing but it’s really a girls painting int it? It’s what I call messy art but if you can make stuff like this and make a living then good luck to ya lad you crack on and enjoy yourself, we will all do our proper jobs!” . I had a big party at the Dorchester in London for a show I did at White Cube called ‘Beyond Belief’ and this is one of the paintings I made for the event. They were all spin paintings and I added broken mirror shards, scalpels, diamond dust and working fairy lights that you could plug in. I love these paintings because they’re a celebration of everything good. This is a pale one with pinks. . This is Beautiful, Beyond Belief Tasteful Party Painting I from 2007.
“That’s not art either! How is sticking rosary beads and butterflies on a painting art? I can see Rembrandt’s an artist cos he paint things that look like what they are supposed to be but what your doing is just modern rubbish!” . I heard someone say the title of this work in a bar and immediately had to make this painting. I hope the painting does the title justice. . This is from 2008 it’s called ‘Sometimes Life Is Really, Really, Really Dark’
“That’s just patterns how are patterns art? It looks like you've had a crap idea and started to do something and haven’t finished colouring it in, I don’t know much about art but I know what you’ve get here isn’t art!” . In 1993 I had a studio below a flat in New York and I was hanging out a bit with other artists like Julian Lethridge who I made this collaboration with. . This diptych is Untitled and it’s from 1993.
When I grew up in Leeds in the north of England and got into contemporary art I ran into lots of resistance from people I knew, my neighbours and mums friends etc so I’m gonna do all my posts this week from the point of view of them folk - “It’s a nice colour n that but it’s not art! It’s too easy! How is that art? You didn’t make it yourself or did you?” . This is one of my all time favourite butterfly paintings. It’s so simple and the title says it all. . This is ‘Friendship’ from 2008
This is a test I made for paintings made of ball bearings, they kind of felt like 3D spot paintings without the colour. I liked the whole world being pulled into them and being thrown back at the viewer, I titled them after the stock numbers for the steel balls but I think with the titles maybe I was being too clever or trying too hard to not look like I was trying at all. It was an idea that hasn’t gone anywhere yet, not 100% certain I want to make these into big paintings. Also they are SO fucking heavy. . This is called ‘BBP 12.7 AISI-316 SS Ni Cr (24 x 24 balls)’
Motherfucking gold cabinet with pink topazes on the shelves. Saying life is beautiful, life is good and full of pink shiny happy memories, they can only be good right? Maybe it’s just me though but I see a darkness there too. And the twisted complexities of money and love. . This is Memories from 2010.
This is from a series of mine called the Poison Paintings where I took a load of photos of skulls myself and made these paintings out of the photos, the black I made by hand from animal fat and ground up burnt bones. I imagine thats not far from how them cave painters used to do their art. . Death on death depicting death. Samuel Beckett said “Death doesn’t require us to make a day free” chilling and oblique words but horrifyingly true. Bleak and oblique. . This is from 2010 and it’s called Ergot
I found this amazing metallic copper paint and made a whole series of butterfly paintings with it all with the word Argos in the title. The greek city of Argos is one of the oldest cities in the world and its named after Argus the son of Zeus and Niobe, not the retail company (well maybe it is named after the company or a bit of both. I know I like making art that references both.) . This is ‘Argos the City’ from 2008.
This is a formaldehyde work with two bull sharks in curved tanks. They were made to go in a big room like they’re circling you but I haven’t shown them anywhere yet. There’s another one with 3 shark tanks called Rescuer - Persecutor - Victim. I often make things and worry about where to show it later. Somewhere always comes up. . This is from 2008 it’s called ‘Rescuer - Victim’
I’ve occasionally made smaller sculptures like this trolley work, I love the confidence of medical stuff in an art gallery and the out-of-placeness (made up word but fuck it!) and the pop of colours and the shapes and how can you not love stainless steel? The brown bottles look like ming vases and that blue is fucking Klein blue. . Stainless steel and blue plastic and black rubber, it’s a fucking sexy artwork and it’s on wheels and with that medical shit it’s a bit scary. . This is called ‘Innocence Lost’ from 2007
I called this series the Veil Paintings because I felt that while these paintings were revealing they were also obscuring, like a veil they were all about looking at something in order to look through or past it. Also veils are thin and these paintings feel like glimpses or moments. . This is Veil of Faith from 2017.
When making my butterfly paintings with diamonds I realised I didn’t need the butterflies and made this diptych. I’d like to make some more with only diamonds, diamond paintings are forever! . This is from 2008 it’s called ‘Gold and Silver with Diamonds’
The human body is an amazing thing and art is an amazing thing. We’re lucky to be alive. Thank fuck we have each other. . This is called ‘Second Series Biopsy: M122/105-Breast_cancer_cells,_immunofluorescent_light_micrograph-SPL.jpg’ from 2008.
This fact painting was taken from a photograph of an art technician installing a work of mine for my Gagosian show ‘Theories, Models, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results and Findings’ in 2000. It’s called ‘Man in Lost Love’ and I titled it factually because the vitrine he was working on is called ‘Lost Love’, I’ve added a pic of the actual vitrine in its finished state. I made 2 versions of it. . I love the darkness and the claustrophobia in this image, its such an amazing image its like something from a tsunami or some kind of natural disaster. When outside becomes inside, when the outside world comes inside your home. . This is ‘Man in Lost Love’ from 2005
I bought this play pen for my son when he was a baby but it seemed so brutal and like a prison that I turned it into this artwork instead. In the 90s I was always on the look out for creative ways to isolate the everyday reality of seemingly meaningless lives. I saw a Francis Bacon painting recently that reminded me of this piece. . This is called ‘Man’s Best Friend (For a Friendless Man)’
The series of fact paintings I made of butterflies on flowers is called Love Paintings but I don’t feel 100% about the title. Calling them all after their latin names seems a bit wank too. “Why would you spend a year painting an image of a butterfly that was snapped on a cheap camera in less than a second?” “Yeah man that’s the fucking point! You feel me?” . This is ‘Papilio glaucus in Gerbera’ from 2009
I made this when I was at Goldsmiths, I think it was in my first year it was supposed to be just a coloured shape or form but with a function. I was looking at Grenville Davey’s work at the time as he was going out with Sarah Lucas and hanging out in the goldsmiths bar and I loved that show he went on and did at Lisson Gallery in 1989. It totally blew my mind. . I left the door on it slightly open to show it was a cupboard and not just an orange box. This is pre-my medicine cabinets, the dimensions are 1 x 2 x 3 and I loved the logic of that. It took me a long time to pick the colour orange, for a while I was thinking salmon coloured or avocado 🥑 but felt too much like a 70s bathroom. . This is ‘Kitchen Cupboard’ from 1989
This Fact Painting is from a photo that Jonnie Shand Kidd took of me and Kate at a nightclub somewhere in Soho. I love the pic because we look happy, its from the series Myths Legends and Monsters and I guess there could be a case at certain times for saying we’ve both been all 3? Maybe saying I’m a legend is crass though? Legend in my own lunchtime maybe? . This is ‘Kate and Damien’ from 2009.
I made this for a charity auction in 2010 and I love it because it’s so happy and hard to argue with it.
Scalpel blades, religious medals, pins and diamonds are scattered across these paintings. There’s 13 in the series and they’re called Execution Paintings cause they’re the same size as Warhol’s small electric chairs. Always thought it’s weird that when a society executes somebody it believes its doing the right thing – not sure I can buy into that. . This is from 2008 and it’s called No Feeling
I made this formaldehyde piece to go into the Empathy Suite at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, I set it into the wall. . This is Winner/Loser from 2018.
This is another scalpel blade painting. It feels really satisfying that the paint is random not clever and doesn’t follow any order, whereas the scalpel blades are perfectly ordered and symmetrical. It’s like flesh over bones. I tried to give them titles the second they were finished, the first thoughts and words that came into my head, a title that somehow summed them up in a moment. . This is Scatter Gun from 2012.
I think these biopsies are good paintings of bad things. It’s appealing until you see the title, even bad things can look good if you’re standing far enough away. Like a nuclear blast.
This is from 2007 it’s called
Quetzalcoatl was a manifestation of the ‘plumed serpent’, a central figure in the myth and cosmogony of the Mesoamerican peoples. The deity appeared in a varied succession of forms through concurrent pre-Hispanic cultures: as a beaded snake with a feathered crest flanked by two birds amongst the Olmecs (c.1200–400 BCE), and, in the later Classic period (c.250–950 CE), accompanied by fertility symbols such as seeds, lilies and conches. . One of the greatest treasures and representative of our irrational and childish fear that technology is gonna eat us!! This is Quetzalcoatl from 2015.
I’ve made many spot painted objects so though I had to do some skulls. I made 5 skulls with spots. I like the way they try to cheer up death, and they kind of manage it too. It’s a funny message. I should have called one IT MIGHT NEVER HAPPEN haha . These Spot Skulls are from 2012.
This is from a series of spin paintings I made where 2 spins meet creating an image of a skull. The series is called Altered States and I tried to name each painting after a different god and a state of consciousness, this ones called Arcane God. Arcane means something so old that we have forgotten its meaning. . This is ‘Beautiful Arcane God Painting’ from 2007