Like fingerprints, artists' styles identity them. A picture of a melting watch is a tip-off that Salvador Dali did it, and paintings made entirely of drips are telltale Jackson Pollocks. But when you think of Damien Hirst, a leading UK artist, you're left clueless. Or as online art magazine Hyperallergic put it in a headline about his new show "Manadals" at London's White Cube Gallery, "Damien Hirst, Turning In Circles."

Round and round we go

Of course, the magazine was referencing Hirst's circular designs, but the phrase "turning in circles' also speaks to his s dizzying approach to art-making.

Hyperallergic attested to this in its review this way: "Hirst has been an erratic artist from the beginning," How erratic? Let me count the ways. In 1993 he created Mother and Child Divided - a glass tank of a bisected cow and her calf with their halves floating in formaldehyde. Artmoney magazine noted in its review of the mandalas that Hirst challenges the boundaries." That's a generous way of looking at his sundry body of work.

Seeing spots s spoils the picture

How sundry? Consider Hirst's Spot paintings - pictures of polka dots in different colors. His website classes them "his most important series." He certainly paid a lot of attention to them. According to Arsy magazine, he has produced more than 1,000 Spot paintings since starting the series in 1986. Then in a quantum leap, in 2017 he produced a bronze sculpture series he titled “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable.” What you saw were make-believe relics raised from a make-believe shipwreck off the East African coast, circa 19th- century.

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Imitation is not always the best form of flattery

But while the sunken treasures pointed to a fertile imagination, one of the relics proved to be a copy of an actual relic. A Nigerian artist recognized it as a bronze head unearthed in his country in 1939. Sad to say, this wasn't Hirst's only act of plagiarism. In 2010 The Guardian reported multiple allegations that included his spot paintings. Jackdaw art magazine listed 15 instances of plagiarism that take in his diamond skull, his "crucified sheep," his spin paintings, his basketball set on an air-jet, his anatomical figure, and his cancer cells imagery.

Will the real Damien Hirst please stand up?

All of which goes to my point about the missing fingerprint in Hirst's vast assortment of art styles. I'm no shrink, but the multiple identities seen in his work are reminiscent that Dissociative identity disorder demonstrated in the film "The Three Faces of Eve." It's as if he doesn't want to be found in his work - even going to the extreme of copying from someone else's work.

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