Walking In The Rain Julian Opie
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Consisting of two prints, one set in London and the other in Seoul, Julian Opie’s Walking In The Rain series is one of the artist’s most iconic works. Each print in the series shows a set of full-length figures striding across the picture plane in a frieze-like composition that works to produce a realistic and vibrant street scene.
As with many of Opie’s depictions of people, each figure in the series is rendered faceless with a blank circle as a head. Despite this, the series shows great variety in the figures’ movement, clothing and footwear so as to distinguish between the passers-by. Colourful umbrellas dominate the top of the image and Opie portrays an abundance of technology, working to create a highly dynamic image.
Opie began the series by filming people walking on the streets of London, taking still photos of passers-by in the rain and gathering the images together to create a frieze of passing people. Using the digital photographs, Opie draws over the original image on a computer-drawing program so as to produce an abstracted but realistic representation of the human body. Following from this Opie commissioned a photographer to repeat the project in Seoul, resulting in the print Walking In The Rain, Seoul that was very different in feel, mood and colour.
Opie’s attention to detail and depiction of the mundane works to perfectly capture contemporary life in London and Seoul and create a highly recognisable image. For example, in Walking In The Rain, London, Opie shows a woman’s Tesco bag, a figure slumping in a thick coat and a multitude of earphones and mobile phones, depicting what the British viewer sees everyday so as to question how we observe the world. The series cleverly conveys the fast paced nature of a city street corner and the variety of personalities that make up places like London and Seoul.
Speaking of his work in relation to the representation of the everyday, 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.”
Captured in the artist’s structured, graphic language, Walking In The Rain encapsulates contemporary life in a way that makes the viewer think about their own body in relation to the figures in the prints. Opie rationalises the human form in a decidedly stylised manner, striking a balance between the soft and human, and the hard and artificial, producing an uncanny effect. Undertaking a task that has preoccupied artists for generations, Opie captures modern life in an entirely unique way.
Why is Walking In The Rain important?
Throughout his career, Opie has produced many images of people walking in the form of static prints, paintings, sculpture, and moving images. Producing anonymous ‘passers-by’ with which to populate his world, Opie’s figures are not devoid of personality thus maintaining a sense of individuality within multiplicity. Depicting the act of walking perfectly suits Opie’s desire to animate his images as this form of movement is universally simple and familiar to the viewer. The movement in Opie’s Walking In The Rain works appear far more realistic than expected, despite the fact that the form of each figure is highly stylised and so movement itself is presented as a form of realism.
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