Opheim began his career in abstraction before shifting to the bold-faced, figurative style that allowed him to explore narrative potential. For his first London solo-exhibition, the artist will present a body of work that imagines bulbous characters that appear at once familiar and foreign, endearing and monstrous, approachable and bizarre. In their soft, sculptural forms, the figures take on certain aspects of a familiar human form without being quite human or proffering an explicit narrative.
The painting Shipwreck depicts a mythical crew of Opheim’s characters thrown from a broken ship; their journey is disrupted, their fate uncertain, yet they appear composed and confident in their ability to calm the chaos. Serving as a jumping off point for the exhibition, this collection of work tells a story of navigating a foreign land, unexpected challenges, and a cast of characters including cannibals, saints, time travelers, and even a fire crew. “Mountaineers (Survival Ax)” depicts two of these creatures — one deerlike with antlers, the other resembling a teddy bear — painted in dark, stormy colors; they appear lost the wilderness, equipped only with a candle and an axe. All together, the images suggest resilience and tolerance in the face of the unknown.
The titles of the pieces occasionally situate and often personalize Openheim’s surreal characters, with recognizable names like “Addison,” “Colby,” and “Landon,” or by alluding to broader themes of life and loss, such as “Saint (Those We Love Become Us).” In this way, the characters act as mirrors for internal reflection and personal interpretation, depicting a range of emotions that exist simultaneously within us. By presenting characters that are familiar enough to be relatable, yet new enough to feel fresh and intriguing, Oppenheim's figures probe our personal and political intricacies.
Each character is modelled after a three-dimensional reference sculpture created by Opheim, giving the images a physical, almost tactile quality. From conception to final product, the pieces can take weeks if not a month or two to complete. The artist welcomes the element of surprise into his practice, with each painting presenting a new challenge for Opheim as he seeks out new processes to try and new characters to bring to life. Shipwreck will be on view from September 10, 2021 to October 7th, 2021, with an opening reception on September 10th from 7 PM to 1 AM. RSVP at email@example.com.
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