Galloping Horse Julian Opie
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The Galloping Horse series is a set of three prints by Julian Opie from 2013. Each print in the series shows a semi three-dimensional image of a horse galloping, depicted with thick, black outlines and set against plain green backdrops.
The prints in this series are representative of Opie’s most iconic graphic style whereby the artist depicts his subject in an extremely stripped back manner. The colours used in each print are monochrome and the horses are devoid of detail, rendered without light or shadow. Opie depersonalises each image with his slick visual language created with computer-generated technology, so as to encourage the viewer to reconsider how we look at the world. This level of depersonalisation invites the viewer to project their own personal emotions, memories and ideas onto the image, thus filling in the blanks of the narratives that are to be read in Opie’s works.
Since the mid-1990s, Opie has explored the principles of modular variation across artistic media and art historical genres. Opie makes clear the way in which he wishes to offer these prints up as commodities to the viewer by creating multiple versions and possibilities for combination with the same subject. The subject of the horse is depicted in the same rectangular composition across the three prints but is shown in various colour combinations and different positions mid-motion. In his replication of post-industrial modes of production, the artist exposes the dehumanising effects of computer technology. Moreover, 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.
Why is the Galloping Horse series important?
The Galloping Horse series takes the same subject and title used for his Galloping Horse sculpture from 2012 that shows an LED continuous moving image of a horse in black and white. Replicating still images from this sculpture, this series shows the horse in three different positions mid-motion. Galloping Horse points to Opie’s interest in creating movement through a series of static images and places his works within the history of art. By using the subject of the horse specifically, Opie creates a set of images reminiscent of the 19th century motion photographer Eadweard Muybridge who created the first moving images by using a sequence of still photographs of a horse.
The sculptural iteration of the subject was installed in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2014 and Director of the Programme, Clare Lilley, said of the work: ‘Julian Opie is one of the most significant artists of his generation and Galloping Horse is a beautiful work that extends the material of contemporary sculpture, making full use of new technology.’
Throughout his career, Opie has produced many images that convey a sense of movement and dynamism in the form of static prints, paintings, sculpture, and moving images. Using photographs taken by the artist, each print is then manipulated and reduced to a matter of simplified shapes and signs to represent a subject. This particular series uses movement as a way to hark back to a specific art historical tradition and to show how lively a horses’ gallop is. In the Galloping Horse series, Opie shows how a simple subject such as a horse can be transformed into a dynamic and unique image by putting emphasis on the subject’s movement.
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