Moving portraiture by Julian Opie

October 26th, 2009 by Jason Jenkins

Julian Opie's "Clare with Landscape"

Julian Opie's "Clare with Landscape"

Last week SCAI the Bathhouse opened a new showing of recent works by Julian Opie (until Nov. 14). Unlike last year’s solo exhibition at Art Tower Mito, this show focuses on portraiture work, which can be just as engaging as the  walking and dancing LED figures that many people now associate him with.

Opie collects Japanese art, both old (ukiyo-e masters Kitagawa Utamaro and Utagawa Hiroshige) and new (hand-painted anime cels). You’ll see similarly flat and vivid color schemes in these portraits, but they are far from static.  Take “Clare with Landscape” (right), for example. Depicted on a vertical LCD screen, at first glance the subject stands as regal and motionless as a Rembrandt or Rubens. But then she blinks. Her bracelet then twinkles in the light and her earring sways slightly, as if to her own pulse. The landscape behind her is alive as well, with clouds lazily crossing the sky and the sound of crows and passing cars.

Opie has also recently utilized Lenticular printing to give 18th-century portraiture styles a modern spin. Many of his subjects are larger-than-life.  Seen here, wavering slightly as you walk from one side to the other, their faces stare down on you with a depth that is both intriguing and somewhat unnerving.

SCAI the Bathhouse is a beautiful 5-10 minute walk from Nippori Station, past the Yanaka Cemetary.

Julian Opie’s site and wiki

A small interview on Youtube from the “This is Shanoza” series

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