United Kingdom, 1958
Julian Opie first studied in Oxford—at the Dragon School and Magdalen College School—before receiving his degree from Goldsmiths’ College at the University of London in 1982. Inspired by two of his professors, Patrick Caulfield and Michael Craig-Martin, he began creating pictorial work that represented reality in a reductive formal language using computer software to manipulate photographs. He reworks digitalised photographs of people or still lifes on the computer, eliminating details and simplifying lines to achieve the final product. The result is a formal language with an awareness and forcefulness akin to that of advertising, rooted in popular comics—particularly Hergé’s Tintin—classic portraiture, Japanese woodblock prints and traffic signage. Coinciding with the historical reassessment of Pop Art, his iconographies have gradually become omnipresent in their application: silk-screen prints, vinyl, LCD, LED, etc. He rendered the band members of Blur for the cover of their The Best Of album in 2000, and his walking figures decorated the stage of U2’s “Vertigo” tour. In addition to his online store—where the general public can acquire items featuring his work, thus having decorative objects fulfil the avant-garde cliché of bringing art into everyday life—he initiated a phenomenon of exponential proliferation in the gallery market. In doing so, he invented a new way of working, which has its most direct heir in his compatriot Damien Hirst. He began exhibiting in 1982 as part of a group show at the Lisson Gallery, alongside Anish Kapoor and Keith Haring. In 1987, he participated in Documenta 8, and in 2004 the Tate Modern published a retrospective catalogue of his entire body of work.