Catherine Opie: To What We Think We Remember | Thomas Dane Gallery

Catherine Opie is a globally-famous photographer who’s broadened her artistic topics of interest over recent years. She hit the big time in the 90s through her confrontational self-portraits, carving words and pictures into her flesh. They’re still her best-known photos. But a set of her work from the last decade, currently on show at Thomas Dane Gallery, reveals an artist in a lyrical mood.

These are photos of calm lakes, sunlit windows and dappled light, revealed in lush pigment prints. The people caught on camera aren’t bloodied and angry, they’re carefree and clean limbed, hopping off a rock at the seaside, tending a family chicken farm. In Picturing Rome (2021), they’re an accessory to a droll visual pun: a disembodied hand photographs the same pretty scene as Opie with an iPad Mini.

Catherine Opie - Picturing Rome

Opie’s travel budget has clearly increased over recent years. The exhibition features scenes from far flung locales: Utah, Italy, the UK, and one from Edvard Munch’s summer house in Norway. I can well imagine Munch carving images into his skin. The Norwegian artist was of course, was tortured to the end: his occasional lyricism always gave way to the darkness.

This new Opie, though, reminds me instead of Nan Goldin, who broadened her repertoire from her searing portraits into nothingy landscapes as she got more famous.

The artist’s dark days seem to be behind her, on the basis of this collection. The work’s pleasing, expensive-looking, luxurious. It’s easy on the eye, and slips by.

Catherine Opie: To What We Think We Remember is at Thomas Dane Gallery (London). 07 June - 27 August 2022