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The Ika series by Julian Opie from 2011 shows the same model in a series of different outfits and poses across a set of seven prints. Each print shows a three-quarter length portrait of Ika elegantly dressed, depicted in bright colours and thick dark outlines. Opie reworks his trademark style in this series of a simplified figure and floating circular head, by adding details such as long hair and opulent clothing.
This series is representative of Opie’s fascination with the genre of portraiture but rather than show a highly detailed character study, Ika appears like a generic sign. Using computer-drawing programmes to complete his works, Opie finds a standardised version of the human figure, such as the signs used on lavatory doors, and combines this with a digital photograph of a real person.
Balancing nuanced styles of Western art with graphic traditions of caricature and illustration, the portraits in the Ika series appear like 21st century versions of portraits of royals or aristocrats. In rendering the sitter anonymous by her featureless face and using a blank circle floating above her shoulders as a head, Opie subverts the traditional genre to provoke ideas surrounding what makes a portrait of a person distinct. The figure’s featureless face that Opie depicts in each print, works as a blank reflection from which the viewer can think of themselves and how they relate to it. Opie’s depersonalised style creates an ambiguous sense of subjectivity in the sitter that is extremely effective.