Japanese Landscapes Julian Opie
Find out more about Julian Opie’s ‘Japanese Landscapes’ series, browse prints & editions for sale & view the works wanted by active buyers right now.
Julian Opie’s Japanese Landscape series from 2009 shows a set of six prints inspired by a trip taken by the artist around Mount Fuji in Japan. Originally displayed as a series of animations based on double and triple LCD screens, this series is characteristic of Opie’s highly recognisable landscape style.
Closely referencing Japanese art history, Opie uses two strips of calligraphy in each landscape print to make clear his inspiration from the woodblock prints of Hiroshige. Interestingly, in prints such as View Of The Mountains From The Nihon Alps Salada Road, Opie incorporates these strips into the scene itself, showing the pond weed covering the strip on the left and the strip on the right is reflected in the water.
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. Indeed, this print is uncanny in the sense of familiarity it strikes within the viewer, in part due to Opie’s depersonalised, slick style rendered through computer technology. This video game aesthetic is typical of Opie’s landscape work from the late 1990s that encourages the viewer to step into a stylised representation of the world. Speaking of his work in relation to its ‘otherworldliness’, Opie has said, ‘I think my work is about trying to be happy… I want the world to seem like the kind of place you’d want to escape into… Mundane things are just as exciting as all the things you might imagine escaping into.’
The Japanese Landscapes series is devoid of any human presence, aside from the inclusion of some cars in the distance. Additionally, due to Opie’s slick visual style, the prints in the series are depersonalised to the point of commodification whereby the viewer is able to make their own imaginative journey through each image.
Why is Japanese Landscapes important?
This series is indicative of the artist’s extensive knowledge of Japanese art, taking inspiration from the woodblock prints of the Ukiyo-e school. Created using computer drawing programmes to manipulate digital photographs, Eight Landscapes is representative of the way in which Opie tries to defy traditional art boundaries through his work. Opie has spoken of this 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.’
Japanese Landscapes consciously reflects the work of Utagawa Hiroshige and Kitagawa Utamaro in its verticality through the horizontal format, cropping, colour gradation and strips of calligraphy. Opie identifies with this aesthetic that holds a sense of stripped-down flatness and lends itself to reproduction. The work of the Ukiyo-e school shows an apparent simplicity that is attained from underlying complexity, and Opie skilfully reflects this in his Japanese Landscapes series. Indeed, the landscapes are indicative of Hiroshige’s sparse, ideal compositions, that play with unconventional perspective and cropping techniques to contrast foreground motifs with the backdrop to dramatic effect. The lack of preciousness of each print in the series, reminiscent of 19th century Japanese woodblocks, works to challenge the existing artistic paradigm in its relation to the smallness of human achievement.
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