Artist: Julian Opie
Organizer: Fosun Foundation (Shanghai)
Supported by: Lisson Gallery
Sponsored by: Arper, Art Zhou, British Council, USM, Wanda Reign
For over three decades, Opie has made the focus of his art a synthesized representation of people, objects and places drawn from his immediate environment. He ‘draws’ or ‘paints’ using a variety of media and technologies, from inkjet on glass and painted aluminum to film animations, vinyl on walls and stone mosaics. The exhibition at Fosun Foundation Shanghai combines over 50 works in these mediums to present a broad overview of Opie’s oeuvre and includes many new works created specifically for the show. Spanning two floors of the new building, the presentation will focus on two aspects of Opie’s practice: his engagement with portraiture and his interest in the built environment and natural landscapes.
Portraits are a hallmark of Opie’s work, presenting people in a myriad of configurations and poses. In these he conveys the complexity of a human figure using the most rudimentary lines and flat planes of colour. With influences ranging from ancient Egyptian reliefs and Roman busts to Pop Art and Japanese Manga, Opie’s portraits capture the ubiquitous elements of our reality and the banality of everyday life. The exhibition at Fosun Foundation Shanghai will include his characteristic portraits of individuals, often with distinct clothing and accessories, presented alongside his familiar depictions of joggers, both running solo and in groups. Opie’s minimalist approach is somewhat discarded in more recent 3D busts made of resin, as well as detailed portraits rendered in mosaic tiles or digitally on LCD screens.
Life-size sculptures and LED monoliths of figures in motion will also feature in the presentation. While LED or LCD screens are more typically seen in a public context, used on billboards or on public transport, Opie here transforms this simple signage and pictographic information to evoke real people and places. Opie says of the work: “I have made a number of LED monuments around the world over the last 10 years. By reflecting the passing crowds and mirroring their motion, the work can relate to the viewer... By taking this forceful medium and bending it to perform a playful role, there is an element of surprise and even humour – as if the airport LED departure board started to draw or the traffic light man crossing the road began to dance.” Opie’s towering building blocks, engineered out of vinyl and paint on wood, recall early pieces from the 1980s and 1990s, when he abandoned a more figurative approach in favour of the abstract. These works combine colourful and geometric steel shapes, their homogeneous finish bringing to mind mass production, in celebration of skylines and cityscapes.