The other day I visited Ilfracombe and was suitably impressed by Damien Hirst’s Sculpture, Verity, who stands there at the harbour, an echo of Dega’s Dancer of 14 Years, looking out to sea. On loan to Devon Council for a period of 20 years, the sculpture is bronze-clad and stands a full 66 feet tall.
Like all great works of art, it divides people – they both love it and hate it, they find it both beautiful and ugly, it speaks to them and it doesn’t. It is somewhat fitting therefore that she holds a sword aloft, dividing, as it were, the onlookers into two distinct camps of opinion, though that’s not what the sword is really about.
It is also interesting that the statue can be viewed from two distinct angles, providing two radically different views: one from which we see the elegant form of the young, pregnant woman, and the other from which we find some of the flesh peeled away revealing the innards of the woman; the kind of statement that is more congruent with Hirst’s other work.
The sculpture is full of symbolism: she holds the sword and scales of Justice, but the scales are hidden behind her back, the sword is in her left hand rather than her right and in addition, she stands upon stacks of law books – this is full of meaning.
Clearly, the sculpture is an allegory on the subject of truth and justice; a similar comment to the one made by Banksy who parodied the statue of Justice and was quite outspoken as to what he was trying to say i.e. that justice has become corrupted. Verity (from the Latin veritas, meaning truth) is a similar, but I think a more elegant and enigmatic comment.
The dual perspectives, perhaps, illustrate the fact that not everyone sees the same thing when they look at truth, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that destiny awaits – not just all of us mortals – but concepts too, like truth and justice.
The fact that Verity is pregnant leaves an additional thought. The mantle of truth and justice must be taken up by the next generation and, just as this generation may have corrupted many of the values of the previous one, we are left to ponder the question, to what must our version of truth give birth?