5 Year Print Market Review 2023

Swam Amongst The Fishes

Elements of realism combine with Julian Opie’s slick, impersonal style in his We Swam Amongst The Fishes to strike an interesting balance between the real and the imagined. Inspired by a trip to Bali, this series is representative of the artist’s desire to capture the world around him, and experiment with they impact of extreme stylisation on the outcome.

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Meaning & Analysis

Following the artist’s installation at Sadler’s Wells theatre, London and the Museum of Modern Art, Chicago, Julian Opie created his We Swam Amongst The Fishes series in 2003. The series shows a set of large-scale prints featuring various species of fish swimming in open spaces of water.

Opie depicts each scene in his characteristic graphic style that uses block colour, thick dark outlines and a flattened picture plane. Opie has created these images using digital photography and computer drawing programmes, a creative process he is well versed in and renowned for. He then chooses his favourite images and draws over the individual photographs on the computer to reduce and abstract the original image.

Inspired by a trip to Bali, this series is unusual for Opie in terms of subject matter but is representative of the artist’s desire to capture the world around him. Opie invites the viewer to step into each scene that he depicts, showing a view of the water from a diver’s perspective. Paired with the series title, the perspective of the diver is also emphasised by the way the fish swim in different directions and some appear to face outwards.

Throughout the series, Opie creates a sense of depth within each image by rendering the fish in various sizes and positioned in different angles. This is representative of Opie’s skill in creating depth and realism within an abstracted visual language, using flat colour, thick lines and simplified shapes.

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