Julian Opie was born in 1958 in London and graduated in 1983 from Goldsmiths School of Art, where he was taught by Michael Craig-Martin. He lives and works in London.
Opie emerged as an influential figure in the British art scene of the 1980s producing a series of painted metal sculptures that humorously combined loosely painted imagery with steel shapes. The artist began by creating images of buildings. Then after the birth of his first child, began focusing on animals using the toy animals his daughter brought back from one of the family trips to Vienna, Austria. Portraits and animated walking figures, rendered with minimal detail in black line drawing emerged from there and serve as hallmarks of the artist’s late style. His human forms are almost a precursor of emojis and certainly draw heavily from Egyptian hieroglyphics of the past. The artist took his inspiration from lavatory signs of all things. He is the foremost artist of the New British Sculpture Movement.
He is influenced by the primitive style of cave paintings in which simple lines create shapes and suggest shadows. Ever since childhood, the artist can remember thinking about the world and then drawing as a means of bringing the world in almost like the act of drawing water from a well. The artist chooses to focus on the face at once capturing humanity while bringing into existence the characteristics of the people around us we all know to varying degrees. Rather than focusing too much on the outside world however, the artist prefers to look inward at his own experiences and family ties to create work using himself as a litmus test. Opie likes using simple shapes to suggest the notion of place and invite the imagination of the viewer into the work. He likes to activate a space and doesn’t just limit himself to making pictures but also creates animations.
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