Elena and Cressie Get Ready For The Party Julian Opie
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Julian Opie’s Elena And Cressie Get Ready For The Party series shows a series of portraits of two young girls rendered in the artist’s late graphic style. Retaining tonal details in the contours of the sitter’s faces and finer details such as eyelashes, both figures appear like animated characters from a video game.
Stemming from his interest in the human form and studying the figure in full length, from the 1990s Opie began to focus more closely on the heads of his models. In Elena And Cressie Get Ready For The Party 2 and Elena And Cressie Get Ready For The Party 4 Opie captures the sitters in typical portrait compositions that align with the traditional art historical genre, thus placing his works within a painterly context. Other works in the series are more drastically cropped so as to focus on the sitter’s facial features and confront the viewer with a dynamic image.
Opie has created these images through using digital photography and computer drawing programmes, a creative process he is well versed in and renowned for. Initially Opie captures the sitters through digital photographs so as to get a feel for their personality and point to any crucial details that are integral to their character. He then chooses his favourite images and draws over the individual photographs on the computer to reduce and abstract the original image.
When considering the series as a whole, it becomes clear that Opie is depicting these women in motion, turning and tilting their heads in an animated fashion. As the series progresses, Opie focuses more closely on the sitters’ features and the style of motion that he portrays is not dissimilar to Japanese anime films.
Each print exudes beauty and femininity, as the sitters look off into the distance, never catching the eye of the viewer. Indeed, this injects the portraits with a feeling of aloofness, the sitter’s eyes shining but filled with emptiness and looking off into nothing. Opie’s depersonalised style further emphasises this feeling of alienation that is provoked by the empty stares of each sitter. Creating the series with a computer-drawing programme works to visibly remove the hand of the artist, producing images with slick surfaces and clean lines. Ultimately the figures appear like animated characters from a video game, realistic yet the viewer is simultaneously aware of their artificiality.
Why is Elena And Cressie Get Ready For The Party important?
The Elena And Cressie Get Ready For The Party series is important as an example of Opie’s late graphic style that toes the line between reality and representation. Speaking of his development in style Opie has said, ‘The first drawings were very simple, but that gave me a language on which to build. They started as black and white, with very pared-down parameters – the mouth was just a straight line and so on – and bit by bit I adjusted it until it seemed like the right balance between someone real and this generic form.’
The series is exemplary of the way in which Opie’s portraiture strikes a sense of the familiar within the viewer, that is at the same time alienating and unsettling. Elena And Cressie Get Ready For The Party uses the visual language of a video game to present us with the mundane context of two girls getting ready together. Their stereotypical beauty appears familiar to the viewer however Opie’s slick, depersonalised aesthetic that is not quite realistic but not quite abstract, provides the prints with an uncanny character.
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