Hirst turns to God
Damien Hirst has revealed that in a series of sculptures inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, which will be seen in London this autumn, Hirst will depict Jesus and the apostles as 13 pingpong balls bobbing on spurting fountains of red wine.
A washing bowl to bathe Christ's feet will sit beneath their Formica table.
Hirst had wanted the balls to bob on blood but opted for wine, with all its symbolic echoes of the eucharist.
It will sit alongside a cow with six legs called In His Infinite Wisdom.
The fourth major piece in his next show at the White Cube gallery in London in September will be The Death of the Saints and the Ascension of Jesus, a sequence of "metaphorical" cabinets showing how Christ and the disciples met their ends. A pickled bull's head will sit in front of each cabinet.
The explosion of new work, after years of relative inactivity by Hirst's standards.
Hirst, 38 this week, stopped drinking six months ago and claims he has discovered a new refinement.
Hirst, a lapsed Catholic whose work has always dealt with death and the yearning for immortality, said: "I think people forget how much bloodshed there is in the Bible. John is the only disciple who died of natural causes and he was boiled in oil and survived it" reports the Guardian.
The "gruesome images" in the Bible he saw at school in Leeds lit the touchpaper of his imagination, he said. "All that heavy imagery is difficult for kids. I took all a bit literally I think."
The new sober Hirst - who admitted that he had done a lot of work when drunk - said watching his two children draw made him reflect on his own artistic beginnings. "All kids draw, but I kept drawing and drawing."
The sketches for his new work were produced for the first proper retrospective of his work, which opened the Ljubljana Biennial of Art in Catholic Slovenia yesterday.
The artist said three things were important in life: "Science, religion and art, and they seem to be connected. You need a bit of each of them. Independently they don't really work, but if you juggle about with them I find that you can tell these stories."
He said two of his most notorious early works, the pickled sheep Away from the Flock and the cow and calf, Mother and Child Divided, had heavy religious overtones.
That theme will continue in a second exhibition he hopes to stage at the Prada Foundation in Milan. Its centrepiece is three crucifixions of pickled cows in a Calvary of barbed wire, which have strong parallels to the paintings of Francis Bacon, one of Hirst's early heroes.