Eight Landscapes Julian Opie
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Eight Landscapes is a set of eight digital prints by Julian Opie from 2000 rendered in his realistic, graphic style. Each image in the series was mounted with sound systems, playing the sounds described by the title or digital LED panels displaying the words of the title one by one.
Created from photographs taken by the artist, then scanned and altered digitally, this print is void of detail and simplified through the use of block flattened colour. Opie thus produces a generic image of the landscape that strikes a sense of familiarity within the viewer. Titling the images with descriptions of sounds he heard whilst taking the photographs, Opie explained “Things in my experience don’t look photographic. When I recall the things I did in a day, for example, it’s not as a series of photographs, high resolution pictures. It’s a series of images which resemble symbols and signs. It’s like another language.”
Eight Landscapes is devoid of any human presence and is depersonalised to the point of commodification whereby the viewer is able to make their own imaginative journey through the image. In composing this image from the perspective of someone walking along the road, Opie retains a sense of familiarity and human presence, thus inviting the viewer to step into the scene.
Opie names each print in this series with three words that refer to sounds that are not present in the actual work. Drawing attention to these sounds that can only be heard in the real world, Opie provokes the viewer to question the effectiveness of two-dimensional representations such as this. In simplifying the Eight Landscapes prints from their original photographs, Opie draws from his personal experience but depersonalises the image to allow the viewer to create their own unique interpretation. Much of Opie’s work has been compared to the digitally rendered landscapes of video games in the way that they mimic a simultaneously familiar yet otherworldly sphere.
Eight Landscapes strikes an interesting balance between the slick, impersonal style that is typical of a computer-generated image and the more personal list of sounds that Opie titles each print with. The series’ prints rekindle these familiar sounds from the viewer’s memory, and it is easy to imagine oneself within this scene. Opie frames nature within the artifice of a computer-generated image, thus the artificial is treated as if it were real by the viewer.
Why is the Eight Landscapes series important?
This series is representative of Opie’s keen interest in creating landscape images that play with the traditional art historical genre of landscape painting. Through his use of distinctly modern subject matter in this series, incorporating images with roads, vehicles, artificial streetlights and telephone cables, Opie brings the genre of landscape into the 21st century context.
Distinct from other landscape series in Opie’s oeuvre such as Japanese Landscapes (2009), Cornish Coast (2017) and the Winter (2012) series, Eight Landscapes brings together a set of very different scenes without a clear overarching or linking theme. Voice Footsteps Telephone is a particularly unusual print in the series, showing a highly ambiguous indoor setting that resembles a hospital. In depicting a diverse range of settings in the same series that all may seem familiar to the viewer, Opie attempts to encapsulate what it is to be human in the modern world.
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