Hirst first introduced spot compositions at the groundbreaking Freeze exhibition staged in an empty Port Authority building in London’s docklands in 1988. Among work by his contemporaries at Goldsmiths College, Hirst, who was one of the main organizers of the show, exhibited wall drawings of colourful spots arranged in a tight geometrical grid. Spot paintings, drawings and prints have since become one of the main strands of his artistic output. From the outset Hirst had conceived the spot works as a continuous series with endless possibilities and one simple rule: the same colour must never be repeated in any one work. Only the very early spot paintings were executed by Hirst; as soon as he was able afford it, he hired assistants to paint them for him. Hirst’s spot paintings have had a lasting influence on design, advertising and popular culture, not least through Hirst’s own company Other Criteria, which has published a wide range of products with the spot motif, designed by the artist.
In 2004 Charles Booth-Clibborn published the first pair of Hirst’s spot etchings, Tetrahydrocannabinol and Methamphetamine – two enormous prints just over two metres wide (landscape) or tall (portrait). Following on from their success, three years later Hirst decided to make the current pair of prints, also a landscape and portrait, on a more domestic scale, but using the same diameter for the spots: two inches(5.08cm). Like the previous spot etchings, they were proofed by Peter Kosowicz and editioned at Thumbprint Editions. They were printed using copper plates sprayed with aquatint varnish rather then resin to achieve deeper bite and hence cleaner lines when printed. All the colours were mixed individually at Thumbprint Editions and applied to the plates in a time-consuming and laborious process. Two printers could print between four to five copies of the etchings per day.
All spot works are titled after drugs or chemical compounds used in the pharmaceutical industry and have therefore come to be known as the Pharmaceutical works. Ellipticine is an anti-cancer drug and Flumequine a synthetic antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections.