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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 24th March 2017 > China Tease Julian Opie is heading east. But will his art speak the right language?

China Tease Julian Opie is heading east. But will his art speak the right language?


IN YOUR FACE: Opie’s self- 2014, shows his typically clear, communicative use of line.

Julian Opie has been making art since he was 12. While his friends were misbehaving after school, he was in his bedroom in 1970s Oxford, working on one project after another, revising and remaking. That is where and when, he says, his driving need to go back to things began. He was always figuring out how to make a piece better than he had the day before. “I’ve been doing that ever since,” he says.

Opie, now 58, has been a success from the moment he graduated, in 1982. He’d studied at Goldsmiths University in London under conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin, whose way of thinking, Opie says, was a close match with his own. His degree show—a multimedia combination of animated films, wall paintings, fish tanks and perfume—sparked interest almost immediately from collectors and galleries such as the Lisson, which still represents him. Opie has exhibited his paintings and sculptures internationally and reached beyond the traditional gallery audience with his animated LED outlines of human figures walking, sometimes presented on billboards on city streets, sometimes elsewhere—as with the huge, computer-generated animations that acted as a backdrop to Wayne McGregor’s 2008 ballet Infra at London’s Royal Opera House.

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ROUND 'EM UP: TRUMP'S BORDER WAR IS ABOUT TO GET UGLY It was a 2017 moment of great joy, and then fear. Ammi Arevalo found out she was pregnant in early February, not long after President Donald Trump signed two executive orders ramping up enforcement of immigration law and deportations. Her first reaction was happiness, mixed with some low-level financial anxiety, but almost immediately a dark foreboding took over her thoughts. As an undocumented immigrant, Arevalo already dreads an early-morning knock on her door from immigration agents. Arevalo and eleven million like her are at the center of a long running fight that is sparking regular protests and threatening to go nuclear in the early days of the Trump presidency. Leading one side of the war are organizations advocating for undocumented immigrants and even teaching tactics to avoid and sub-vert immigration laws. They want people like Arevalo to live in the U.S. with no real legal distinction between them and American citizens. Leading the other side are the president, many politicians and sheriffs in Texas, and organizations pushing for tighter enforcement and millions of deportations.