Whether it’s a festival, carnival or day out in the sun, there are plenty of pleasures to be had this week. Add the dizzying visual feast that is Nataraja to the mix
It’s not often that an artwork makes me feel like dancing, but there’s something fidgety about Nataraja. Its intense riot of colour, chopped-up and diagonally cut across the picture plane, pierces my corneas, shakes my belly, and dissipates in a tingly stupor to the tips of my digits. ‘Tap, click, tap’ commands each hue in my ears, as my eyes flit between various saturations of colour. At over two metres wide, you can’t help but be ensnared by Nataraja‘s chromatic charm when coming across it in the new circuit of galleries at Tate Britain, in a room of works from the 1990s.
British abstract artist Bridget Riley first came to prominence in the early 1960s when she began to create distinctive black and white abstract paintings using lines and shapes to form optical effects. As a child living in Cornwall, she developed sensitivity to natural phenomena and the effects of light and colour made a particularly deep impression. Throughout her international career Riley has explored the complex visual sensations that colour and shape can create, and despite the apparent simplicity of her designs, her work begins from nature: ‘the eye can travel over the surface in a way parallel to the way it moves over nature. It should feel caressed and soothed, experience frictions and ruptures, glide and drift…’
These so-called ‘Op-art’ pieces produce a disorienting physical effect on the eye, a bit like the ‘optical flutter’ I feel when looking at Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, painted in the 40s when captivated by American jazz. In the 1980s following a visit to Egypt, Riley’s work changed dramatically when she took up what she called an ‘Egyptian Palette’. In Hindu mythology Nataraja means Lord of the Dance and refers to the Hindu god Siva (Shiva) in his form as the cosmic dancer - a dance that represents his importance as the source for all movement in the universe. So whether you’re at a wedding, festival, garden party or picnic this week, sure - take it easy, glide and drift. But don’t discount a little rupture here and there, and definitely make time for a boogie woogie.