Julian Opie

Julian Opie 2006 Montreux Jazz Festival
Juilian Opie, self portrait © Julian Opie


Just as the invention of photography forced painters to change techniques in the 19th century, computer technology has revolutionised the work of contemporary artists. The work of the Englishman Julian Opie perfectly illustrates this influence. His characters are formed with only one remaining circle which appears to have been drawn vectorially as a head. Individuals reduced to pictograms, somewhere between a symbol and an icon. Dual icons in this case, since the musicians he paints separately on the three versions of the festival poster form the rock band Deep Purple. In this mythical song the authors of “Smoke on the Water” told the story of the Montreux Casino fire, and created the nickname “Funky Claude“.

Julian Opie’s schematic aesthetic had already caught the eye of musicians before this Montreux poster. The English artist created visuals for a U2 tour and portraits of Blur members for the cover of their Best of released in 2000. The originals of these portraits are exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London.