15 July 2012

Julian Opie @ Lisson Gallery

If you are in London over the next month and you are interested in the New British Sculpture movement then one place you must visit is the Lisson Gallery. From now until 25 August you can visit the largest ever exhibition of the work of Julian Opie. What’s more, all of the work exhibited here is new.

Over the last three decades Opie has become widely recognized for his contribution to contemporary art. He is preoccupied with investigating the concept of representation- how the human face and form is presented through art. It has a striking immediacy (no one can argue that it isn’t very, very contemporary) which belies its often older roots.

Although his work is thoroughly modern, Opie makes significant nods to what has come before and this is communicated throughout his oeuvre. The walking figures series, already an essential element of his artistic practice, recall Egyptian friezes. Not so much the sand dance of antiquity but more the rush and movement of people going to work. This time around, however, Opie works with the everyman and woman rather than with media established personalities (you probably know his album cover for Blur, for their Best Of release which brought his work to popular public attention).

Another new departure is the busts. They immediately reminded me of the 3300-year-old painted limestone bust of Nefertiti, the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten yet the processes involved here are decidedly twenty first century. The subjects’ heads were scanned three dimensionally and then the image was simplified, formed and dipped in resin. Opie then hand painted each one to startling effect.

One of the most ancient of art forms, the mosaic, is given a revelatory modern twist. Again, this is a new departure for Opie and the classical and modern references combine in these startling images. The artist’s trademark thick black lines and the very modern faces and clothing of his models juxtapose and coalesce intriguingly with antique methodology.

Watch out, too, for the six digitally animated landscapes on LCD screens, complemented by an internal soundtrack of natural sounds. Although for me the highlight of the exhibition is the extraordinary busts these pastoral idylls show a different reflection of the world through Opie’s eyes.

The Julian Opie exhibition is at the Lisson Gallery (29 Bell Street) till August 25, with the nearest tube being Edgware Road. You will know you are there when you see Opie's LED sculpture of a galloping horse mounted on a plinth which is in the gallery's courtyard. You can't miss it!

If you have enjoyed the pictures above (all by HAPPYFAMOUSARTISTS on Flickr) then take a little time to go through the slideshow of the exhibition, above. Remember, of course, the above is just a selection of Opie's new work and like any great art, the best way to see it is up close.