In the UK, rainbows have been popping up in windows and storefronts, from hand drawn creations to elaborate designs, as a reminder to stay positive during the pandemic as to show solidarity with the NHS and its workers. British artist Damien Hirst, best known for bold polka dots artworks and formaldehyde-soaked animal installations, has joined in, creating a rainbow out of butterfly wings. Hirst’s combo, simply called Butterfly Rainbow, brings together two major symbols of hope that doubles as an effort to raise money for the NHS.
“I wanted to do something to pay tribute to the wonderful work NHS staff are doing in hospitals around the country,” wrote Hirst in his original Instagram post showing a full rainbow. “The rainbow is a sign of hope and I think it is brilliant that parents and children are creating their own version and putting them up in the windows of their homes.”
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I’m in awe of the charity-workers and community groups across the country who are risking their lives and health to deliver food to the most vulnerable in this time of crisis. I wanted to pay tribute to them so I also made this heart using the colours of the rainbow, a symbol of solidarity and hope, to support the Evening Standard and The Independent’s campaign to raise money for these vital organisations. It’ll be printed in today’s Evening Standard so if you’re able to then pick up a copy and stick it up and show some love and hope in your window. I will also be releasing this one as a print, and the money will be going to support the hungry and those helping them; stay tuned for more info.
Butterfly Rainbow can be downloaded from Hirst’s website for people to hang in their windows. It was also printed on the back page of The Standard newspaper yesterday for people to use. Hirst also plans to sell print editions of a special rainbow butterfly heart to raise money for major aid organisations in the UK.
“I’m in awe of the charity-workers and community groups across the country who are risking their lives and health to deliver food to the most vulnerable in this time of crisis,” continued the artist in an Instagram post where he announced his fundraising plan.
Both butterflies and rainbows have long histories of representing hope. The butterfly’s transformation from caterpillar into chrysalis into butterfly is also a strong metaphor for change and evolution. For some, the butterfly is even seen as a representation of the soul. Similarly, rainbows tend to be a source of inspiration and hope. They are the silver lining to every storm proving that every difficult situation yields something positive – something that is easily forgotten amid the storm. Both have been used by various religions, movements, and artists and they certainly apply to today as we face continued uncertainty.
Hirst is no stranger to working with animal motifs, particularly butterflies. In 2001, he began a series of paintings called he dubbed “Kaleidoscope.” It’s a Wonderful World (2001) was the first such painting and it featured a dizzying arrangement of butterfly wings that was inspired by a Victorian tea tray. Since then, Hirst has created a number of works that include butterfly wings. His self-described obsession with the notion of death has actually become a celebration of life and is part of the reason why Hirst began working with butterflies.
His most recent work is certainly a celebration of life and it’s a celebration of those fighting to save lives every day during the COVID-19 pandemic.