Julian Opie speaks to Polish website Rynek i Sztuka on the occasion of his major solo exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art Krakow (MOCAK) in 2014.
The exhibition opened on October 18 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow includes your newest works, prepared almost entirely with a view to Krakow exposure. What kind of works will be presented?
I nearly always make all exhibitions as new work. This way I can pursue my latest ideas and use the exhibition as a showcase and a test for new works. Then again each exhibition tends to follow on from the last one. The Krakow show expands on ideas first shown in London, Boston and Berlin and I aim to further these in Tokyo and Helsinki soon. I came to see MoCAK a year back and have moulded a show to best fit the architecture of the galleries. There are three main projects. Head portraits in mosaic, as moving animations on LCD screens and as large 3D painted sculptures. Full length portraits of people walking on the street as films on LED and plastic paintings and finally landscapes as wall drawings and LED films. This is backed up by some new products in the shop and a catalogue.
The position of yours in the international art market is quite lasting. How did you react to the proposal of creating MOCAK's exhibition?
I was very excited and honoured to show at the beautiful and dynamic new museum in Krakow. I have never shown in Poland before and am very happy to make my first show here.
The exhibition consists of works made in different techniques. We have both LCD screens, large format graphics, and spatial sculptures. Some projects are colourful, some of them black&white. What secrets can be revealed from this diversity?
My work is not about secrets. I think the work is straightforward and quite obvious. It's about making pictures to look at and about looking at and interacting with the world. I hope people will just look at the works and perhaps enjoy that process. There are many ways to make an image. I hold no allegiance to any particular method. I don't play a particular instrument. Sometimes I paint by hand sometimes I program a computer. I pick the way of making something to match the image and I pick the image to match the technique, it's like a song with words and melody. I invent as I go along using the world, present and past, as a pallet of possibilities.
You are widely known for portraying people in different conditions, often in motion and approximation of some sort. What, exactly, defines a modern man?
I don't think modern man or woman is really any different from his or her ancient counterpart. Technology changes and to some degree politics too but I imagine we live pretty parallel lives inside our heads. My father said the only truly modern experience is travelling at speed. I would add seeing the world from above (in a plane) and the explosion in information and communication though this is only a matter of raised volume really. Perhaps people live more virtually today, certainly there is more stuff available that is not the reality in front of you. I draw a lot of people on the street and at least half are looking at their phones.
How this image has been received by the Polish audience?
Well I am writing this before the exhibition has opened so I have to wait and see! I don't really get to know what people think. It's not like a concert where people clap or boo, I make the exhibition and attend the opening and then go home. I don't take much notice of the press and visitor figures. I get good photos for future catalogues and start work on the next show.
Your works are highly related with the aesthetics of digital imaging, including popular filters and special effects (e.g. Winter, 2012). Where is the boundary between high art and pop culture? Do technology really matter when it comes to the definition of true art?
True art? Pop culture? I am not sure I really understand these terms. I see images and movement and materials and languages and I play with them. The computer is a powerful tool and makes working easier for me. Electronics allow for movement. If I lived on a desert island I'd use sand and leaves. I worry more about good art.
How did it happen, that your work appeared on the cover of the Blur's The best of ?
Not very mysterious really, they asked me or rather their design company asked me. More interesting to me was the result afterwards. To see my images enter another world, a much bigger world with CDs and billboard posters around the world. I don't like being confined to an art world of galleries and museums though these institutions are great and useful. There are a lot of ways to make and show art. I make T-shirts and mugs with as much attention and care as paintings as long as it makes sense within the ideas. I like CD covers like little ikons but I suppose they will soon disappear. I have worked with a few musicians, sometimes they write music for me for my art works as soundtracks and I have also worked on stage sets for tock bands and for ballet. I find collaboration difficult but I like to put work out into the world and am often involved in outdoor public projects. I have placed one work outside the museum in Krakow.
How do you perceive the present condition and development trends of international art market?
From a distance! I love to look at art though. I look at art from all periods. Ancient, old master as well as modern and contemporary. I find looking at art energising and exciting, it makes me feel connected to the world and to other people, it helps see at the world and feel alive.