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Critical Review

By far one of the artist’s largest works, Winter is a series by Julian Opie from 2012 that brings together 75 landscape images. The prints in this series are laminated to glass, showing 75 sequential steps on a circular walk taken by the artist through the French countryside.

Each print shows a beautiful, rural landscape on a harsh winter’s day but when considered alongside one another these images appear like an animation film. Opie has been interested in animation and movement throughout his entire career, often using movement as a form of realism and to create dynamic images of modern life. This series is particularly compelling when displayed together in the same room in a gallery setting, as it has been shown at an exhibition in the Alan Cristea Gallery in 2013.

Depicted in a limited colour palette of various shades of green, brown and grey, this series maintains a cohesiveness across all 75 prints. Effectively portraying an atmospheric and misty winter’s day across the series, the series is made up of only block colours and simplified shapes. Representative of Opie’s late graphic style, the prints in the Winter series delicately toe the line between reality and representation.

Combining the vernacular of everyday life with the canonical styles and traditions of art history, this print presents a twenty-first century version of the classic art historical genre of landscape painting. Taking the form of a rectangular composition and using conventional modes of depth and perspective, each print in the series encapsulates the landscape painting tradition. Opie has spoken of his interest in subverting the traditions of art history saying, “Our attitude towards art history, towards schools, styles, and ‘isms’, was quite aggressive. We wanted to manipulate them, to use whatever style we wished.”

Since the mid-1990s, Opie has explored the principles of modular variation across artistic media and art historical genres. The artist’s Winter series is indicative of this investigation, with prints consisting of similar titles, each with the same composition, and subject matter, tracking a winter walk. Opie emphasises art as a commodity in his replication of post-industrial modes of production and exposes the dehumanising effects of computer technology. Opie parallels the artificial nature of the items represented with his methods and style of working that defy the presence of the artist’s hand.