Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley, 1990
Photographer unknown. Courtesy of the Bridget Riley Archive

 

Bridget Riley (*1931) is one of the most influential painters of our time. The London-based artist has been spelling out the vocabulary of abstraction in an extraordinarily methodical way since the early 1960s. Though she is often described as a key figure in the Op Art movement, the complexity and presence of her work defy that label. Her painted galaxies of horizontal, vertical, concave and convex stripes, rhombuses, triangles, circles, dots and grids are more than a simple play with optical phenomena; they expose the psychological and art-historical foundations of seeing.

 

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Riley’s painterly probe of visual perception relies on an ambiguous visual language that is as abstract as it is evocative. Her works are characterized by an almost hypnotic intensity. The surfaces of her paintings and wall paintings appear to shimmer, quiver, contract, or expand, at times conveying the impression that they are floating in front of the wall, moving in the direction of the viewer or recoiling from them. These qualities give her work a visual pull and a unique pictorial depth, but they also almost imperceptibly destabilize the picture plane. Riley focuses on the ways in which colors and elements of geometric form interact with one other, their mutual influence and modifications, on rhythm, repetition, variation, contrast, and the quasi-musical motif-like quality of picture elements. In doing so, she shifts the focus of the painterly event from the picture plane to the space between picture and viewer. Her art is an art of dialogue between eye and image; its effect unfolds only in the dynamics of seeing.

Riley does more than just explore what shapes and colors are capable of when they no longer have to represent or describe anything. She also uses the painterly idiom of abstraction to make something perceptible that had been inaccessible before, distorted as it was by the logic of representation. Her paintings are often marked by a specific energy that prompts us to look, shaping and drawing our gaze so that it resembles the way we view landscapes, the sea, the sky, the horizon, clouds, and light. Her work both catches the eye and eludes it at the same time. The longer you look at one of Riley’s works, the more it fractures into almost infinite-seeming variety of perspectives. Again and again, viewers are confronted with erratic and unpredictable visual elements, with the gaps and abysses of sensual and emotional experience. Landscape and nature, these paintings seem to say, are not only outside, but also inside of the viewer—light, color, and depth conjure echoes and reflections, moods, impressions, and memories in our bodies that stir a “landscape” sensation. Rather than paint images that represent landscapes, Riley paints something that produces a similar way of seeing, a “landscape seeing.”

Bridget Riley has often referred to the many influences that have inspired her work, including the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the music theory of Igor Stravinsky, as well as Samuel Beckett’s literature. Her work also draws on a variety of visual languages and systematically explores the historical evolution of pictorial space. In the latter context, the painter has often pointed to the work of Georges Seurat, but also to that of Paul Klee and the Italian Futurists, Paleolithic cave paintings in Lascaux and the murals in Egyptian tombs. Riley’s work absorbs the history of painting in order to understand its languages and abstract it for the present. Her paintings burst with life, offering a sustained resistance to more comfortable modes of perception and thinking. Her pictures trigger and shape a way of looking that is at once attentive, exploratory, empathic, and open—to both visual sensations and energies that transcend the visible.

 

Works
Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley
Divertimento, 2016

Bridget Riley
Divertimento, 2016
Acrylic on canvas
136.5 × 198 cm
53 3/4 × 78 inches

Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley
Measure for Measure 39, 2019

Bridget Riley
Measure for Measure 39, 2019
Acrylic on linen
172 × 172 cm
67 3/4 × 67 3/4 inches

Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley
Untitled 2 (Measure for Measure Wall Painting), 2017-18

Bridget Riley
Untitled 2 (Measure for Measure Wall Painting), 2017-18
Graphite and acrylic on plaster wall
170.2 × 382 cm
67 × 150 3/8 inches

Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley
Vapour 2, 2009/1970

Bridget Riley
Vapour 2, 2009/1970
Acrylic on linen
152.2 × 130 cm
59 7/8 × 51 1/8 inches

Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley
Late Morning 1, 1967

Bridget Riley
Late Morning 1, 1967
PVA on linen
226.7 × 228 cm
89 1/4 × 89 3/4 inches

Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley
Series 12. Cerise, olive and turquoise, 1972

Bridget Riley
Series 12. Cerise, olive and turquoise, 1972
Pencil and gouache on paper
101.4 × 69 cm
40 × 27 1/8 inches

Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley
Black to White Discs, 1962

Bridget Riley
Black to White Discs, 1962
Emulsion on canvas
177.8 × 177.8 cm
70 × 70 inches

Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley
Descending, 1965

Bridget Riley
Descending, 1965
Emulsion on board
91.5 × 91.5 cm
36 × 36 inches

Details
Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley
Divertimento, 2016
Acrylic on canvas
136.5 × 198 cm
53 3/4 × 78 inches

Bridget Riley
Divertimento, 2016
Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley
Measure for Measure 39, 2019
Acrylic on linen
172 × 172 cm
67 3/4 × 67 3/4 inches

Bridget Riley
Measure for Measure 39, 2019
Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley
Untitled 2 (Measure for Measure Wall Painting), 2017-18
Graphite and acrylic on plaster wall
170.2 × 382 cm
67 × 150 3/8 inches

Bridget Riley
Untitled 2 (Measure for Measure Wall Painting), 2017-18
Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley
Vapour 2, 2009/1970
Acrylic on linen
152.2 × 130 cm
59 7/8 × 51 1/8 inches

Bridget Riley
Vapour 2, 2009/1970
Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley
Late Morning 1, 1967
PVA on linen
226.7 × 228 cm
89 1/4 × 89 3/4 inches

Bridget Riley
Late Morning 1, 1967
Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley
Series 12. Cerise, olive and turquoise, 1972
Pencil and gouache on paper
101.4 × 69 cm
40 × 27 1/8 inches

Bridget Riley
Series 12. Cerise, olive and turquoise, 1972
Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley
Black to White Discs, 1962
Emulsion on canvas
177.8 × 177.8 cm
70 × 70 inches

Bridget Riley
Black to White Discs, 1962
Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley
Descending, 1965
Emulsion on board
91.5 × 91.5 cm
36 × 36 inches

Bridget Riley
Descending, 1965
Details
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Current and Upcoming
Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers
Press

Joining the Dots
Harper’s Bazaar Art, review by Meg Honigmann, November 2019

Bridget Riley: Painting Now
Fabrik, article by Jonathan Griffin, February 6, 2019

‘I keep trying to push age away’
Financial Times, article by Richard Cork, November 9, 2018

Seeing is Believing
Frieze, article by Michael Bracewell, October 1, 2018

A Parallel Pink Universe
Bridget Riley: Painting Now, published by Sprüth Magers Los Angeles, article by Dave Hickey, 2018

Biography

Bridget Riley (*1931, London) lives in London, Cornwall, and the Vaucluse. Selected solo shows include the Hayward Gallery, London and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (both 2019), Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art, Sakura (2018), Christchurch Art Gallery (2017), The Courtauld Gallery, London (2015), The Art Institute of Chicago (2014), National Gallery, London (2010) and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2008). Selected group exhibitions include Documenta (1977, 1968), Venice Biennale (1968) and Museum of Modern Art, New York (1965).

Education
1952–56 Royal College of Art, London
1949–52 Goldsmiths College, University of London
Awards, Grants and Fellowships
2012 Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen
2009 Kaiser Ring of the City of Goslar
2003 Praemium Imperiale, Tokyo
1999 Companion of Honour
1974 CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire)
Public Collections
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Arts Council Collection
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Charlotte, NC
British Council
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Dallas Museum of Art
Dia Art Foundation, New York
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA
Government Art Collection, London
Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Sapporo
Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Iwaki City Art Museum
Kunsthalle zu Kiel
Kunstmuseum Bern
Leeds Art Gallery
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Manchester City Art Gallery
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna
Museu Colecção Berardo, Lisbon
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum im Kulturspeicher, Würzburg
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Nationalgalerie, Berlin
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
Neues Museum, Nuremberg
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
Ohara Museum of Art, Okayama
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Kitasaku
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Museum Sztuki, Lodz
Tate, London
Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, Utsunomiya
Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano
Ulster Museum, Belfast
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester
Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT