28. Julian Opie

Julian Opie b.1958, London, England Imogen computer animation, 2013 The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art Gift of Barbara '68 and Theodore '68 Alfond Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College 2014.1.1 British artist Julian Opie gained mainstream recognition after designing the cover art for an album by the British pop band Blur. On the cover, Opie depicted the four members of Blur in his typical fashion—minimal and pared-down with thick black outlines and only the most distinguishing features included. Opie draws inspiration from a variety of sources, ranging from Pop Art to Japanese woodblock prints. He is deeply influenced by technology, particularly computers and video games, and his portraits can be understood as commentary on the digital age and its impact on human perception. In Imogen, from 2013, Opie portrays a young girl through computer animation. Against an empty backdrop of purplish-pink, Imogen seems to exist in a void, perhaps the virtual space that often occupies the attention of contemporary society. She appears unblemished, with a perfectly smooth complexion. Despite the sparseness of Opie’s portrait, viewers still get a sense of the subject’s individuality through the artist’s rendering of subtly-defining features, such as the particular arch of her eyebrows and the pout of her lips. Opie reminds us that in today’s world, where advertisements, digital technologies, and flashing visuals provide constant stimulation, we only linger with images long enough to retain a rough understanding of what we see. However, while this portrait seems still and static, the animation actually changes every few moments. A subtle smile grows on Imogen’s face, and her expression shifts from one of indifference to one of contentment. Opie’s work perhaps suggests that certain things in the fast-paced tempo of everyday life require a close study rather than a passing glance.