I want my paintings to exist on their own terms. That is to say they must stealthily engage and disarm you. There the paintings hang, deceptively simple – telling no tales as it were – resisting, in a well-behaved way, all attempts to be questioned, probed or stared at and then, for those with open eyes, serenely disclosing some intimations of the splendours to which pure sight alone has the key
The exhibition opens with one of Riley’s most recent works: the large wall drawing Composition with Circles 2003. This work, which is drawn directly onto the wall, reveals new advances in Riley’s art. It also demonstrates certain characteristics which have been present in her work from the outset.
A primary characteristic is the way a complex visual structure is formed from the repetition of simple shapes. This is a principle which runs throughout Riley’s art. The wall drawing takes a complete circle as its starting point and repeats this shape, creating a web of abutting, nearly touching and overlapping hoops. In common with all Riley’s work since 1961, the wall drawing is the result of a long preparatory process involving detailed studies on paper in which formal ideas are tried out and progressively refined. Once a definitive image has been decided, the activity of painting individual works - or in this case, drawing a scaled-up composition onto the wall – is carried out by assistants. Though freely composed during the preparatory stage, the structure of the wall drawing marries organic asymmetry with an underlying sense of order, stasis with movement, flatness with depth. As in Riley’s paintings, the drawing, though abstract, reveals features which we recognise from certain experiences in nature.
Continuing the theme of black and white, the room also contains a selection of key paintings from the 1960s. From 1960 to 1967, Riley worked without colour and the wall drawing returns to that earlier manner.