Julian Opie and Ryan Gander at Lisson Gallery
This morning, the Lisson Gallery opened two new exhibitions of two deeply respected British artists: Julian Opie and Ryan Gander. In separate exhibitions, these artists display all new works, though both exhibitions also serve, in part, as retrospectives.
Ryan Gander’s The Fallout of Living is his second solo exhibition at the Lisson Gallery. This collection of work explores Gander’s increasing fascination (and concern) with the complex inter-dependency of artist and art. Having been described as a “masterful visual storyteller”, Gander uses The Fallout of Living to explore the metaphysical problem of life and art beginning to merge imperceptibly when the artist is unable to approach life without their creative filter. In works such as Tell My Mother Not to Worry, Gander seems to be extending this enquiry into the formation of selfhood. This incredible marble sculpture immortalises an essentially creative act – his young daughter playing as a ghost using a sheet over her head. In seeing a child’s playtime as a moment in the formation of her creative self, Gander is forced to present questions about how our creative responses to the world form who we are: as such, we become nothing but the sum of our creative responses; it is impossible to escape our own creativity.
This deeply complex and seemingly paradoxical concept is explored in every piece and similar questions are examined from different angles. In other pieces such as The Way Things Collide and Kodak Courage the viewer is forced to bring their own creative process to the work in order to make sense (or rather attempt to draw connections) between disparate or actively obstructed objects.
Though both exhibitions are distinctly separate, it may be possible to draw a thematic link here to Julian Opie, whose minimal portraits also actively demand viewer input. Most famous for his portraits of the members of Blur, Julian Opie has become an iconic part of British cultural identity. One of the New British Sculpture movement, Opie’s works are characterised by their focus on popular consumer culture and often make witty observations on the way we assign meaning to otherwise disconnected or meaningless objects (a theme also explored by Gander’s The Way Things Collide).
In this exhibition, Opie returns heavily to his walking figures, which formed a large part of his earlier commercial work – most notably the stage animation commissioned for U2’s Vertigo World Tour. As in all of Opie’s portraiture, character and personality are denoted almost imperceptibly using bold lines and completely minimal detail. There is an interesting interplay throughout between the slick language of an urban environment and the problem of assigned meaning. It is an interesting point that much of Opie’s bold, blunt imagery has become iconic – thus crystallising in itself the artist’s theme of ascribed meaning.
The cultural relevance of historic influence is placed in juxtaposition with modern media by the painted Romanesque busts, which have been constructed using advanced 3D laser scanner technology. Likewise, portraits such as At Church with Felcia jarringly combine urban visual language with a distinctly 17th century pose and composition.
The artistic and philosophic questions brought forward by these two exhibitions are very much active and alive – the works of Julian Opie and Ryan Gander approach these questions very differently, but all the works on display at the Lisson Gallery illuminate the complexity of creativity in a modern world.