Part 1. Project 1. Exercise 5: Finding Out More

In this exercise I am to find two examples of still life work that includes fish and in each case note the title, artist and date. I am to make quick sketches of them in my learning log.

The two examples of still life including a fish which I chose to use are quite different from one another. The first is a photographic example which I found at The Guardian online.

the Guardian. (2019). The 10 best contemporary still lifes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

wright, c. (2010). Nature Morte 2. [image] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

This artist (Cindy Wright) has created a series of images to remind people about the cost of eating meat. All this image reminds me of are the needless displays of aggressive veganism at locations like Turkey farms and in the meat section of supermarkets. If we all had to kill our own meat then a lot of people may well choose to become vegetarian, personally I think that would depend entirely on how hungry people became. Everyone should know where their food comes from but equally there’s no need to dress it up. Again I find that this is an arrangement of objects to make a point but not something that I consider to be art.

My second choice of still life is an impressionist oil painting called Still Life with Fish by Pierre Auguste Renoir from 1890 which I discovered at WikiArt online. (2019). Still Life with Fish, c.1890 – Pierre-Auguste Renoir – [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

Renoir, P. (n.d.). [image] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

I do not think there are any hidden meanings in this image, I believe that it has been produced purely for decorative purposes. This, to me, is an example of art. It serves a purpose and it took a lot of skill to complete.

I now have to watch a video discussion from the Khan Academy about Hirsts piece. I am to list the different areas of context that are covered and any references to ‘time’.

I found this video, not at the link given in the student handout but instead at

Khan Academy. (2019). Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

Areas of Context;

  • The title of the piece
  • Arts relationship to the understanding of mortality
  • Physical construction of the artwork
  • How open to interpretation art from the 20th and 21st century is
  • Survival instinct of the human brain
  • The disintegrating nature of the shark and how that can be a metaphor for normal life
  • The impermanence of art
  • The sophistication of Damien Hirst and the potential thought he put into the design of the piece
  • The establishment of museums of philosophy

References to Time;

  • favourite piece of art in last 3-4 decades
  • the history or art coming to terms with mortality
  • art through history
  • 20th and 21st century compared to renaissance
  • post the movie ‘Jaws’
  • 2nd shark that has been displayed in this tank
  • “his design didnt hold up to time”
  • transgenerational nature of art
  • art changing over time
  • Egyptians mummifying bodies
  • the inevitability of decay
  • museums as time capsules

Whilst listening I was also to listen out for information on several other headings;

  1. Hirst – It is decided that it was Hirsts ‘sophistication’ that led to him choosing to display the shark in a tank of formaldehyde. ‘He created the impossibility of its preservation’.
  2. The Piece – The title of the piece is remarked upon as being just as profound as the piece itself. The full experience is described as including both the piece AND the title.
  3. Hirsts other work – It is mentioned that he also slices sheep in half and displays them in tanks.
  4. Information on other artists whose work is concerned with mortality -Duchamp is quoted as saying “A work of art is completed by the viewer”. No other artists are mentioned.

Has the contextual information about The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living altered your view or response to it in any way?

Yes it has. My initial response to this installation was exasperation. Having read further online in essays previously referenced about the links between Hirst’s shark and capitalism through the decades I can now see how it represents a many layered message. I’ll certainly never be able to watch ‘Jaws’ in the same way again!

Even with my further enlightenment I still have not changed my definition on what makes something art. Having to go and research something to understand it, in my opinion, means something is unsuccessful as a concept.

The Guardian Article

I located this at

Searle, A. (2019). Damien Hirst – review. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

Well I’ve read the article and I’m firmly on the side of the author. When I read that he had been classing Hirsts work as ‘memento mori in the pursuit of a reputation’ since 2009 I actually laughed aloud. I couldn’t agree more.

He assembles objects which provoke a reaction, yes. Unfortunately that reaction is normally one of disgust. Is it necessary to continually present once living things in tanks of formaldehyde? I am currently sat in the Falkland Islands where I am being forced to work with the Army. One of their favourite games at the moment is to try and poo on the floor in as public a place as possible without being caught. Seeing this mornings turd outside the hairdressers provoked a reaction in me all right but it certainly doesn’t make it art.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s