English sculptor, painter, printmaker and installation artist. He studied at Goldsmiths College (1979–82) under Michael Craig-Martin, for whom he briefly worked as an assistant, and emerged as an influential figure on the British art scene in the 1980s, with a highly inventive series of painted metal sculptures. These humorous and playful sculptures combined a loosely painted imagery with steel shapes. Towards the end of the 1980s his sculptures became larger, more austere and minimal, and were often based on a relationship between art and architecture. As his work developed it dealt increasingly with the exploration of visual and spatial experience, often with reference to digital simulation. Imagine You are Walking (1–18) (acrylic on wood, 1993; London, Lisson Gal., see 1994 exh. cat., pp. 96–7), comprises 18 neutrally painted images of the interior of a computer-generated maze. In a related series, images simulate the bland, hypnotic experience of motorway driving. An autonomous, purified idealism is underlined by alienation, suggesting a dystopic side of modernist architecture and planning and the human failure of a technological modelling of experience. Opie's exploration of cognition also takes the form of architectural model-making, in which he constructs bland generic models of building typologies, such as castles or churches. These were intended to reflect a disengaged and superficial emotional response to the outside world; such a response could equally be one of numb indifference or innocent wonder. In 1995 Opie was awarded the Sargent Fellowship at the British School in Rome.
Julian Opie (exh. cat. by W. Herzogenrath and K. Baker, Cologne, Kstver., 1984)
Julian Opie (exh. cat., essays W. Herzogenrath and others, London, Hayward Gal., 1994)
10 December 2000