The first fish cabinets - ‘Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purpose of Understanding (Left) and (Right)’ (1991) are amongst Hirst's first formaldehyde works. The formaldehyde, which is employed more to communicate an idea than as a preservative, acts aesthetically with the fish to maintain an illusion of their lost lives underwater.
The sense of scientific order in the minimalist display – which has analogies with the spot paintings – creates a feeling of permanence that is pitched against the transience of life. Following the construction of the fish cabinets, he commented, “they all face the same way yet they can’t make contact the way they do in the sea […] in life we’re separated by flesh and bones and you can’t really move beyond that.”
 Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst ‘I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now’ (Booth-Clibborn Editions; Reduced edition, 2005), 9