Julian Opie

13.09.–31.10.2019

Three statues cut by water jet from thick bronze sheet and stained black enough to read as shadows; they slot into low stone bases like toy soldiers. Each stands for an individual who could be a type and could be seen most anywhere, but was in fact glimpsed on a specific street at a particular moment, waiting for the lights to change or a train to arrive. The bronze and stone should last a good long time but they capture a fleeting observation, a click of the camera amongst hundreds, thousands. The deep black draws the figure in space leaving the white to be whatever is behind the work, the gallery wall in this case. Heavy, pricy, tangible materials from the war memorial or graveyard create a floating drawing of a glimpsed stranger.

The people depicted could be the audience for the exhibition, in which case they would be looking at the three large portraits on the wall nearby. These are made from spray-painted aluminium - as used on a car or a boat - and the drawing is made by layering the different colours as you would cut-out felt patches or raised lettering on a ship’s hull. I learnt the reversed carving technique by looking at Egyptian painted reliefs. In my last show at Galerie Krobath the drawn black line stood in front of the colours, but now it's created in negative by the coloured sections that lie on top. This allows me to do away with the background all together, leaving the portrait head to sit on the wall as a flat sculpture.

The heads are not looking back at you like a traditional portrait but are seen side-on, suggesting that the people move past you, sliding across the wall. Strangers who ignore you and will soon be gone, remembered only by a flash of colour, a suggestion of type and dress - like the people passing the gallery on the Vienna street outside. The machine cut lines and computer drawn shapes allow the images to be read fast with the simple, neutral authority of public signage. But the individual characters seem to survive the abstraction and perhaps even become emphasised, clearer, more present.

Julian Opie