Tate Britain Level 2
26 June – 28 September 2003
No painter, dead or alive, has ever made us more aware of our eyes than Bridget Riley.
– Robert Melville, The New Statesman, 1970
A major exhibition devoted to the work of Bridget Riley will open at Tate Britain in June 2003. Bridget Riley is one of Britain’s most respected artists and one of the few contemporary painters with a truly international reputation. Her distinguished and singular career encompasses forty years of uncompromising and remarkable innovation.
Riley first attracted critical attention with the dazzling black and white paintings which she began to make in 1961. These works became celebrated for their disturbing and disorientating optical effects, yet undeniable and surprising beauty. Her participation in the seminal exhibition The Responsive Eye at The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1965 established her as an artist of the first rank. This position was confirmed at the Venice Biennale in 1968 when she became the first British contemporary painter, and the first woman, to win the International Prize for painting.
While celebrated for her black and white paintings of the early 1960s, Riley has continued to advance her art. At the heart of this development has been her investigation of the role of colour. Since late 1967, when her first colour stripe paintings appeared, Riley has sought to articulate an abstract language in which relations of colour and form generate a range of visual sensations. The impression of light in all its chromatic variety and intensity, and a sense of subtle and sometimes vibrant movement, are among the complex perceptions yielded by her paintings. By turns lyrical, powerful and serene, her work is underpinned by her adherence to the French nineteenth-century master Eugène Delacroix’s observation: ‘the first duty of a painting is to be a feast for the eye’.
Having recently turned seventy, Riley occupies an unusual position within the field of contemporary art – a senior artist whose work, with each new development, generates fresh interest. In her recent wall-drawings, the largest of which to date will be made at Tate Britain especially for the exhibition, Riley eschews paint and colour, weaving intricate compositions entirely using line. Respected both by her peers and by a younger generation of artists and students, she is admired for her dedication to certain artistic ideals and also as an incisive communicator about her own work.
This exhibition will be a survey of Riley’s entire career to date and will include key examples of all phases of her work. As such it offers the opportunity both to review many early, celebrated paintings and also to see these afresh in the context of works produced since then and up to the present day.
The exhibition is curated by Paul Moorhouse, Tate Collections Curator, in close collaboration with the artist. It is supported by Tate Members and will comprise over sixty paintings borrowed from public and private collections around the world. A fully-illustrated catalogue will be published to coincide with the exhibition.