When he first came to prominence in the early 1990s, Damien Hirst's was known for works such as 1994's "Away from the Flock" featuring livestock suspended in tanks of formaldehyde.
I'm happy to rediscover Hirst's works as I google "Cherry Blossoms". Hirst talks about the advantages of working solitary, in a very large (albeit cold) studio and with no time pressures in the drawn out lead-up to his current exhibition at the Cartier Centre of Contemporary Art in Paris. That such a renowned and experimental artist like Hirst can express his appreciation and understanding for nature in such an earnest and pure way is really refreshing.
Of course Japan's national tree has influenced their artists and craftspeople for centuries. Since Japan's reopening to the West in the mid 19th Century we see this influence in the now famous works of Van Gogh and his contemporaries, "Almond Blossom" (below) being one of those.
Nihonga is a term literally meaning "Japanese painting" and was created in response to the widespread influence of Western painting ("seiyoga"), which made its way to Japan during the Meiji era (beginning 1868).
Nobuyoshi Watanabe's beautiful work, "Spring Evening", (below) is painted in the Nihonga way using semi precious stone pigments layered in each individual petal to give depth and place.
Hirst's first Paris exhibition will be more palatable for the masses than his earlier ones, however his recurring themes of death and immortality can even be found in these pretty pink dot paintings. One of Japan's prominent 20th Century artists, Reiji Hiramatsu, reflected on the sadness felt as cherry blossoms begin to fade with this quote:
"How can I blame the cherry blossoms for rejecting this floating world and drifting away as the wind calls them?"