Bijou Gets Undressed Julian Opie
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Bijou Gets Undressed is a set of eight prints by Julian Opie rendered in his characteristic linear style, each showing the female model, Bijou, in a sequence of five different poses. As the series progresses, Bijou takes off her clothes to expose her body, whether that be a dress, a skirt or her underwear and is an example of Opie’s more sexually charged subjects.
Throughout the series, Bijou is shown with a blank circle floating above her body as her head and is rendered in Opie’s simplified linear style. In some images the figures are defined by an outline of clothing and in others are reduced to a clear-cut outline of torso, limbs and two curved lines for breasts. Interested in creating a syntax of signs to convey information or personalities in a quick and intense manner, Opie’s figures draw inspiration from public signs like those found on lavatory doors. The images in Bijou Gets Undressed are created by using this standardised version of the human figure and combining this with a digital photograph of a real person to produce an abstracted but realistic representation of the human body.
Ambiguous and alluring, the figure in Bijou Gets Undressed is anonymised, aside from the first name given in the title, due to her featureless face and simplified form. Bijou is instead defined by her sensual, elegant poses that are familiar to the viewer from advertising and mass media culture. Never erasing the personality of his models, Opie highlights the particularities of an individual through the reduction of frivolous details. Maintaining sex appeal, the anonymity of the figure allows for a multitude of interpretations from the viewer to emerge, prompting one to think about how we relate to this image and resemble one another.
Opie’s Bijou Gets Undressed series uses choreography, gestures and typical iconography of strip shows and catwalks to produce a predetermined ‘type’ that is instantly recognisable to the viewer. Opie plays into the erotic fantasies of the assumed male spectator through his sign-like visual language to unpack the repeated utilisation of the female body in media and the dominance of the male gaze.
Why is the Bijou Gets Undressed series important?
Depicting the act of undressing has interested Opie throughout his career as a means to convey a sense of movement through the static image, even prior to the production of these multiples. However, the format used for the Bijou Gets Undressed series is unique in its horizontal composition showing the model in a sequence of five different poses, thus incorporating five figures in each print. In showing the same figure repeatedly within the same picture plane, Opie produces an abstract image that is freed from reality. This is emphasised by the plain white backdrop that provides the viewer without context of place or even gravity.
The sequential composition produced through the horizontal format is dynamic and ensures the viewer's eye follows the figure from left to right as she removes her clothing. Opie thus creates a sense of movement and motion through a sequence of static images, much like movement seen in films and something that the artist is renowned for. This innovative compositional style that utilises a horizontal format influenced Opie’s future works with similar subject matter, such as This Is Shahnoza (2006).
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