The early morning mist dissolves. And the sun shines on the Pacific. You stand like Balboa the Conquistador. On the cliff top. Among the last of the Monterey Cypress trees. The old whaler’s hut is abandoned now. But whales still swim through the wild waves. Sea otters float on the calmer waters. Cracking abalone shells on their chest. Humming birds take nectar from the red hibiscus. Pelicans splash lazily in the surf. Wander down a winding path. Onto gentle sands. Ocean crystal clear. Sea anemones. Turquoise waters. Total immersion. Ecstasy.
Life Without You proposes a layout of shells from exotic places as the desolate emptiness of lost love. Hirst has said that he likes shells ‘because they once contained life’; this aspect of them is paramount for him. However, although he is presenting a landscape of dead husks, they have already been transformed, through varnishing, into a range of attractive consumable objects, leading to the suggestion, in Life Without You, that the abandoned subject may find consolation elsewhere. The grid in this work is compromised by its variations and exceptions, perhaps allowing some hope despite the bleakness of the implied end. In comparison to works made by Schwitters using found pebbles, a feather and shell, such as Symphony for a Poet, 1940, its collage of humble objects suggesting melancholy and contemplation, Hirst’s table arrangement appears upbeat, clean and colourful, if a little sterile. The aesthetics and tactics of advertising have become central characteristics of Hirst’s work: Life Without You anticipates his later use of them to reinterpret traditionally poetic subjects (love, loss, life, death) in a new language of contemporary art that fuses minimalism, pop and the cult of the commodity.
text from Tate