Bridget Riley

On display in the Wolfson Gallery, 8 September 2007 – 6 January 2008

Bridget Riley, ‘Nataraja’ 1993
Bridget Riley
Nataraja 1993
© Bridget Riley 2020. All rights reserved.

Bridget Riley (born 1931) is one of Britain’s most important abstract artists with a major international reputation. Riley first came to prominence in the early 1960s when she began to produce a series of distinctive abstract paintings in black and white using lines, curves and shapes to create startling optical effects. In a long and distinguished career since then, she has explored the complex visual sensations that colour and shape can create. Despite the apparent simplicity of Riley’s abstract and formal designs, her work begins from nature and explores fundamental ideas of perception. These so-called ‘Op-art’ pieces produce a disorienting physical effect on the eye.

Working in series, Riley’s work has shifted stylistically over the years. From 1961–4, Riley worked exclusively in black and white, using repeated forms and lines. The spatial relations between the elements create a dynamic sense of movement. In the mid 1960s Riley began to use tonal variations of grey, and by 1967 introduced colour to her paintings, creating an entirely new visual sensation.

From the mid 1970s to 1980 Riley began to expand on the idea of movement, especially through the use of curves, integrating these into simple colour progressions in order to heighten the visual dynamism. From 1990 to the present day Riley has continued to experiment with colour to create works of great visual vibrancy. In some works she shatters the picture plane into blocks or lozenges of colour, whilst in Nataraja 1993 she cuts across the plane with diagonals, to create a sense of dynamic movement. In the late 1990s these diagonals develop into curvilinear works, the surface broken up into segments of curves weaving across the canvas, creating perhaps her most complex compositions to date.