16 July 2014

Julian Opie at the Holburne, Bath

One of the surprises provided by Julian Opie: Collected Works at the Holburne Museum in Bath is that it is his first one-person exhibition in a UK museum for over ten years, a period in which his work has been highly visible, for example on the covers of Blur: The Best Of and the National Portrait Gallery’s Visitor Guide (Alex, Bassist. Darren, Singer. Dave, Drummer. Graham, Guitarist, 2000 and still from animation, Julian with t-shirt, 2005, below):

Another surprise in the show is  Opie’s personal collection of art which includes sculpture from ancient Egypt and Rome, 17th and 18th century paintings and sculpture (works by Lely, Reynolds and Romney) and Japanese prints. Items from his collection occupy half of the display in the Holburne, juxtaposed with the other half which consists of works by the artist since about 1995 (Lely’s Portrait of an unknown woman, Opie’s At home with Maria 2, 2011, below left and right):

Opie makes use of new technology such as 3D printing, vector drawing and computer-animated LED and LCD screens, eg Marina in purple shawl, 2010:

Opie’s technology-based work is often associated with that of Michael Craig-Martin, his teacher at Goldsmiths, though I was reminded of Patrick Caulfield’s use of flat areas of simple colour bounded by black outlines. Animation allows more than one of a sitter’s facial expressions to be revealed in succession (eg Imogen, 2013), thought-provoking in terms portraiture’s ability to convey personality, given the Opie style’s lack of detail.

3D scanning and printing was used to produce the sculpture Reed 1 2012 (below left) which then had to be hand-painted, one of the sources for this being an Egyptian mask, 664-332 BC, (below right):

Other small-scale works fall between sculpture and painting, for example two of a series in collaboration with Royal Ballet dancers and staff: Caterina dancing, 2010, 10 Blue and 09 Red, both silkscreen on painted wood, below left and right:

Three sculptures (Aniela at the spring, 2011; 3 men walking, 2008; Peeing boy, 2012, right) are available for all to see in the garden of the Holburne Museum where Julian Opie: Collected Works continues until 14 September. The show will move to the Bowes Museum from 25 October to 22 February 2015. The exhibition catalogue includes interesting essays by Sandy Nairne, the Director of the NPG, and Julian Opie, and commentaries by the artist on the works on display.

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