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Relief print, 2020
Signed Print Edition of 20
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Joe Syer, Head of Urban & Contemporary Art
Swamp Hen is a signed relief print made in 2020 by the renowned British artist, Julian Opie. Released in an edition size of 20, the print shows a Swamp Hen with its neck bent downwards, it appears to be searching for food or on the verge of picking something up with its beak to eat. The hen is rendered in bright yellow and set against a bold blue backdrop. Opie uses thick red lines to outline the bird’s body, a characteristic feature of the artist's visual language.
Opie's artistic style was clearly inspired by Pop Art and artists such as Andy Warhol. A strong Minimalist influence can also be detected in his artworks as Opie privileges shape and form over detail and shading. Like many of his contemporaries, Opie is not concerned with producing realist depictions of his artistic subjects. Instead, he is more interested in how shape, form and colour interact.
Swamp Hen is part of Opie’s Small Birds collection which comprises five artworks, all of which depict a different kind of bird. The pieces were produced to accompany Opie's impressive public art installation which the artist made in Melbourne, Australia in 2020. The installation involved the artist organising a set of LED screens showing computer animated birds along a grass strip between two lanes of heavy traffic in the city centre. The installation reminded passersby of the array of wildlife native to Melbourne and the importance of paying attention to one’s natural surroundings.