Following the artist’s installation at Sadler’s Wells theatre, London and the Museum of Modern Art, Chicago, Julian Opie created this print, We Swam Amongst the Fishes 4 as part of the series We Swam Amongst the Fishes in 2003. This is a large-scale print showing an image of various species of fish swimming in an open space of water. Opie depicts this scene in his characteristic graphic style that uses block colour, thick, dark outlines and a flattened picture plane.
Inspired by a trip to Bali, this print 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 the scene that he depicts, showing a view of the water from a diver’s perspective. Paired with the print’s title, the perspective of the diver is also emphasised by the way the fish swim in different directions and some appear to face outwards.
We Swam Amongst the Fishes 4 is notable for its flat blue backdrop that is representative of the sea. The world shown in this image is rendered without subtle detail, with no water reflections or ripples. The artificiality of the scene is reminiscent of video game aesthetics, typical of Opie’s landscape work from the late 1990s and early 2000s. Opie thus encourages the viewer to step into a stylised representation of the world so as to question how we look at the real world we live in.