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Julian Opie


Julian Opie was born in London and raised in Oxford. After the Dragon School, Oxford, he spent some time at Magdalen College School, Oxford.

His work, derived in part from Patrick Caulfield and Michael Craig-Martin, involves the reduction of photographs (or short films) into figurative reproductions (created using computer software). In his portraiture, the human face is characterised by black outlines with flat areas of colour, and minimalised detail, to the extent that an eye can become just the black circle of the pupil, and sometimes a head is represented by a circle with a space where the neck would be. Opie uses computers in art for other works. His Imagine you are... series, demonstrated how activities such as driving, walking and climbing could be represented by simple reductions. In addition, Opie uses sculpture and light installations to present items of everyday life.
“I am simply using that which is available to describe that which is experienced."

Julian Opie's style was brought into the public eye when he was asked to design the cover for the British band, Blur's best of album. On the cover, the band members (clockwise from top left) Graham Coxon, Alex James, Dave Rowntree and Damon Albarn are transformed into Opie's style. Also, in 2005 and during Irish rock band, U2, Vertigo world tour, he showed another LED screen on part of stage set displaying an aimless walking man figure.

Julian Opie also implements computer technology by cutting out the outlines and coloured shapes, sometimes on vinyl, as in large display banners at Tate Britain. Opie is a former trustee of the Tate Gallery and exhibits with Lisson Gallery and Alan Cristea Gallery in London. His studio and workshop is based in Shoreditch, London. He was also the subject of a book by Mary Horlock published by Tate Publishing as part of their Modern Artist series. He has recently launched a new online shop, JulianOpieShop.com, reflecting his ambition to break down the barriers between what is deemed to be 'fine art' and 'everyday'.

In 2009 The Lisson Gallery presented forty recent works by Julian Opie, an extensive articulation of his interest in the traditional genres of landscape painting and portraiture, and his engagement with art history. These works range in medium from painting and sculpture to liquid crystal display (LCD) screens and light emitting diodes (LEDs).

Opie draws inspiration from the contemporary world, constructing his refined, concise visual language, through which images of people, figures and landscapes are conjured, rendering them in his universally recognisable style. He uses simple signs and pictograms and expands them to evoke real people and places. Included in this show are works from Opie's Eight Views of Japan (2007), a series of animations on double and triple LCD screens of Japanese landscapes based on a trip taken by the artist around Mount Fuji in Japan.

This series closely references Japanese art history, particularly 'pictures of the floating world' - paintings and prints of the Ukiyo-e school. Opie has taken much influenced from the graphic, pared down style of Utagawa Hiroshige and Kitagawa Utamaro, in whose work a seeming simplicity is attained from underlying complexity.

Julian Opie lives and works in London. He studied at Goldsmith's College of Art, graduating in 1982 and had his first solo exhibition at Lisson Gallery in 1983.

Lisson Gallery  London 2008

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