The recently restored Pitzhanger Manor in the heart of Ealing is currently home to one of those artists whose name is less familiar than their art is.
Julian Opie made his name and reputation in the cool Britania era, and was responsible for that famous Blur album cover, and indirectly many a personal avatar image on early chat websites as people remade their photos in Blur-style imagery.
He is now back, with a curious exhibition that if you didn’t know Opie has a thing for solid blocks of colour and thick black lines would be mystifying. As it is, it’s still difficult to see quite what’s going on here without being old.
You walk into a room filled with large flat ironworks, there’s a lady, here’s a dog, several clock towers. It’s all very nice, but what is it?
It turns out that you’re standing in a representation of a French village town square, which sort of works intellectually, although the end result does look more like the salesrooms for large garden ornaments.
Around the room are some large computer-generated 3d-effect images of the fictional town. Very much his style in art, but the flat earthen colours aren’t really appealing as, for example, pop-art versions would have been.
A video screen showing a fly-though of the village reminded me very much of Monster Maze for the ZX81 computer, and I kept half expecting to see a dinosaur somewhere. A tip though is not to stand too close to the video as some of the turns around corners are very sharp, and disorientating.
The flat video becomes 3D though in a side room where some boxes have been made up in the same style, so you can walk around the village just as the video fly through it earlier.
It’s all very odd and may be spaced out too much in the gallery so that it lacks a certain humanity about the display.
Outside though is something more interesting. A series of five small digital screens show birds doing what birds do. Including pooping.
Putting computer animals in a landscape usually occupied by the real thing could be explored with deep meanings, but the fact is, that birds are usually fun to look at, and these digital birds seem almost comic-like in their style. That raises a smile.