Christians say Hirst exploiting religion to create sensation

Skulls, graphic images of Christ, crucifix encrusted with pills ... and all in an exhibition inside a church
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The Independent Online

Christians have accused the artist Damien Hirst of exploiting religious imagery for the sake of controversy in a new exhibition, to be displayed in a working Anglican church.

The exhibition features graphic photographs inspired by the wounds of Christ, a crucifix encrusted with pills and a silver heart impaled with needles and razor blades. Many of the show's works appear to pit the spiritual against the pharmaceutical: one sculpture entitled The Eucharist takes the form of an outsized marble Paracetamol tablet.

According to Mr Hirst, the works explore the tensions between religion and science. "People tend to think of them as two very separate things, one cold and clinical, the other emotional and warm and loving. I wanted to leap over those boundaries."

But Justin Thacker of the Evangelical Alliance warned that some Christians will be affronted by Mr Hirst's "crass theology". He said: "You could be offended at seeing a great symbolic event in Christianity reduced to a headache pill ... although both pharmaceuticals and Christianity provide relief from physical or emotional pain."

Although the exhibition has been permitted by the Church of England, an Anglican spokesman admitted it would cause concern to some believers. "The question is, are powerful images of faith being used for sensational effect?"

"New Religion" will go on display next month at the All Hallows on the Wall gallery in the City of London. It includes three large new paintings inspired by the church building.