Isaac Julien

Isaac Julien, Paradise (Omeros) No. 2, 2002. Roland Archival pigmented inkjet print (triptych), 3 sheets: 27 x 27 inches each; image: 24 x 24 inches each. Edition of 12. © Isaac Julien. Gift from the artist.

Isaac Julien created the photo multiple Paradise (Omeros) No. 2 for FWM in 2002. Like much of his work, this triptych playfully explores seduction and voyeurism. The center image of an idyllic tropical landscape is complete with a waterfall and lush foliage. On either side of this photograph are two identical images of a nude young black man with flowers obscuring his face. The shallow depth of field creates an out-of-focus foreground, which makes the petals look like a kind of curtain, behind which the man’s body, in clear, sharp focus, coyly tempts the viewer. However, the flowers still cast a shadow over the man’s body, adding a further element of abstraction to the work.

The 2004–5 FWM film and video exhibition Experiments with Truth, guest curated by Mark Nash, included Julien’s three-channel work Paradise Omeros (2002). The title drew inspiration from Saint Lucian poet Derek Walcott’s extended poem Omeros (1990), which took its title from the name in ancient Greek of the epic poet, Homer. This video delves into the social, political, and emotional terrain of postcolonial identity through a richly imagined, elliptical narrative that exists outside the bounds of linear time to link two island cultures: a bleak, gray 1960s England and a bright, colorful contemporary Saint Lucia. Paradise Omeros constructed a deeply personal yet mythic narrative of the Caribbean diaspora and the Creole—a hybrid identity that encompasses multiple cultures, histories, and sites of origin.

Artist Bio

Sir Isaac Julien, CBE RA (b. London, 1960), is a filmmaker and installation artist who currently lives and works between London and California. His multi-screen film installations and photographs incorporate different artistic disciplines to create a poetic and unique visual language. His 1989 documentary-drama exploring author Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance titled Looking for Langston garnered Julien a cult following, while his 1991 debut feature Young Soul Rebels won the Semaine de la Critique prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Julien has participated in the Venice Biennale; the Gwangju Biennial, South Korea; Prospect 1, New Orleans; Performa 07, New York; and documenta 11, Kassel. His work is held in significant collections around the world. Julien has taught extensively, holding posts such as Chair of Global Art at University of the Arts London (2014–2016) and Professor of Media Art at Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe, Germany (2008–2016). He is the recipient of the James Robert Brudner ’83 Memorial Prize and Lectures at Yale University (2016). Most recently he received the Charles Wollaston Award (2017), for most distinguished work at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and in 2018 he was made a Royal Academician. Julien was awarded the title Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s birthday honors, 2017. In 2022, he was awarded the prestigious Goslarer Kaiserring Award.

Isaac Julien is Distinguished Professor of the Arts at the University of California Santa Cruz, where he leads the Isaac Julien Lab together with critic and curator, Mark Nash. The Isaac Julien Lab was designed to mirror the Isaac Julien Studio in London and is a platform where students learn about the strategies behind the production of moving images, photographic works, exhibitions and publications. The Lab aims to create innovative pedagogical methodologies, visual and sonic languages for production, exhibition and installation while examining the various aspects that concern contemporary artists and curators working in the field of media art and moving image, in relationship to current modes of research, development, exhibition, production and scenography of moving image artworks.