Tourist With Beard is a screen print from Julian Opie’s Tourists series (2014) that features a portrait of a man with a beard, wearing a brown coat and sunglasses. Opie created this series from a selection of photographs taken on a family day out to the South Bank in London where there are always crowds of different people. Using these photographs, Opie simplifies the shapes and flattens the colours on the computer to anonymise the sitters and create an abstracted image.
In depicting the figure with sunglasses, Opie conceals the sitter’s gaze so as to distance the viewer and depersonalise the portrait. At the same time, this print incites a sense of familiarity within the viewer in that this is a stereotypical image of a tourist. Opie explains why he enjoys depicting familiar scenes stating, “Art often focuses on the bizarre and tries to get past what is normal, to undermine and confound, which is great but I like to deal with what is normal, what is engraved on the back of our eyes and brain, what we use to navigate, what we know, what makes up the palettes of the experienced world.”
Rendered as three-quarter length portraits, the prints in Opie’s Tourists series are reminiscent of old master paintings through his use of traditional composition and pose. Opie however makes these otherwise traditional portraits distinctly modern through his use of subject matter and flattened, bright colour.