Contemporary Print Market Report

Walking
In Melbourne

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Critical Review

Produced in 2018, Walking In Melbourne is a collection of ten prints produced by Julian Opie.  The prints in this collection feature groups of faceless figures walking unassumingly through a city. Although Opie extracts the figures from their environment, replacing the cityscape background with a plain backdrop, thus removing any visual context as to their location, the viewer can infer from the titles of the prints that the people are walking through Melbourne.

The figures do not have faces however can be distinguished from one another from their outfits and the accessories they are holding. The urban clothing and objects the people are holding, such as phones, shopping bags and briefcases, are another indicator of the city setting of these artworks.

The figures in the Walking In Melbourne collection are rendered using thick coloured lines which are then filled with blocks of flat colour. This is a signature element of Opie’s visual language, along with his use of simplified shapes and bright colours. Opie’s artistic style is often compared to Roy Lichtenstein who is known for his comic book and cartoon imagery, as well as Patrick Caulfield and his use of bold outlines. Opie’s affinity with the screen printing technique and his reproduction of similar images of everyday scenes have also led to comparisons between his work and that of the famous Pop artist, Andy Warhol. While Warhol produced portraits of starts and notable icons like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor, alongside prints of everyday consumer goods, Opie prefers to depict ordinary people, as is seen in the Walking In Melbourne collection. Opie avoids depicting ‘iconic’ subjects who are instantly recognisable and instead privileges his immediate surroundings, taking inspiration from daily life and the quotidian. Opie’s artworks showcase mundane reality yet still retain an intriguing and captivating pull that seizes the viewer’s attention. The anonymous figures depicted in the Walking In Melbourne collection remind the viewer of the people they cross paths with everyday. Speaking about his representation of the everyday, Opie explains: “mundane things are just as exciting as all the things you might imagine escaping into”.