Characteristic of much of Julian Opie’s work from the mid-2000s, Elena, Schoolgirl (With Lotus Blossom) is a portrait from 2006 of a young girl. The print is rendered in Opie’s typical figurative style with thick bold lines, simplified shapes and bright blocks of colour.
Opie presents the viewer with the absolute minimum by which the subject can be recognised, with buttons for eyes, two lines for a mouth, and the image created with flat, block colours. The young girl in this work is fictionalised through the highly stylised rendering of the image and in the presentation of the portrait as a type, rather than as an individual. Working to depersonalise the portrait with his drastically pared-back style, Opie opens the subject to a multitude of interpretations from the viewer.
This print, along with many other portraits in the artist’s oeuvre, is titled with the sitter’s first name and occupation, ‘schoolgirl,’ emphasising the way that Opie sought to use as little information as possible to create a distinctly recognizable portrait. Opie’s portraits like this one reveal the dehumanising effects of extreme digital simplification, highlighted by Elena’s blank expression.