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Julian Opie: People 15

Open Air

Born in London in 1958, Julian Opie emerged as an influential artist in the 1980s after studying at Goldsmiths College in London. Towards the end of the decade Opie’s sculptures became larger, more austere and minimal, and were often based on the relationship between art and architecture.

Opie’s work investigates the idea of representation and the means by which images are perceived and understood. Initially taking photographs of his subject matter – be it people, landscapes or still lives – he then digitally manipulates the photos and constructs images by a process of elimination. He reduces the features that characterise a person or object to the bare minimum, so that with just a few lines he is able to identify what makes something unique and recognisable.

People 15 uses the same reductive process to introduce the ‘urban’ within the setting of the distinctly rural YSP landscape. 

The work, inspired by popular culture, is derived from Opie’s films which document people walking around in the urban environment. Here we find members of the public transformed into uniquely recognisable LED characters.

"Things in my experience don’t look photographic... When I recall the things I did in a day, for example, it’s not as a series of photographs, high-resolution pictures. It’s a series of images which resemble symbols and signs. It’s like another language."

"It would be terrible to leave such brilliant graphic tools to signage and advertising. There is a poetry where nature and people meet technology. The scrolling of LED numbers on a currency exchange board can be like sunlight sparkling on water. The first LED I fell in love with was a tiny galloping horse on a Korean taxi meter."


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