Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Thursday, 1 October 2009 12:27 UK

Hirst 'gives up pickled animals'

Damien Hirst with his artwork, The Incredible Journey
Hirst rose to fame on the back of his provocative installations

Damien Hirst has revealed that, for three years, he has been secretly painting alone in his garden shed.

The artist has told the BBC there will be no more large-scale installation pieces, including his signature pickled animals and medicine cabinets.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Front Row, Hirst says he is now solely painting by hand.

"For two years... the paintings were embarrassing and I didn't want anyone to come in," said the 44-year-old.

Speaking amidst half-finished paintings in his studio - a garden shed in the grounds of his Devon farmhouse - Hirst admitted that he had to re-learn to paint for the first time since he was a teenage art student.

Damien Hirst
Hirst's paintings will be exhibited at the Wallace Collection in London

"It felt awful for two years," he says. "The paintings were embarrassing and I didn't want anyone to come in.

"I thought if I die now, people are going to find these paintings and it's going to be horrible."

Although he is now working with oil on canvas rather than sharks in formaldehyde, the subjects of his new figurative paintings remain familiar - human skulls, sharks jaws and cigarettes are all depicted.

'Belly up'

Hirst also told Front Row presenter John Wilson that he had feared last year's Sotheby's auction of more than 200 of his artworks would be "a disaster".

When he heard news of Lehman's bank crash on the morning of the first day of the sale, Hirst said he expected the sale "to go belly up".

Against all expectations the sale raised £111m, a world record for a single artist auction.

However, the world-renowned artist is under no illusion that the new paintings - which will be exhibited at the Wallace Collection in London later this month - will be well-received by art critics.

"Oh, they're going to hate them. Hate them," he says.

"People are not shocked by animals in formaldehyde any more, but they're shocked that you're picking up a brush and a canvas and going backwards."

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