10 Facts About Bridget Riley's Bagatelle

Bagatelle 2 by Bridget Riley - MyArtBrokerBagatelle 2 © Bridget Riley 2015
Jasper Tordoff

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Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley

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The Bagatelle print series was created by Bridget Riley in 1989. It is an example of her exploration of colour and form and represents her Op Art style.

1.

This series is indicative of the period that Riley came of age

Bagatelle 3 by Bridget RileyBagatelle 3 by Bridget Riley, 2015

Visually, this series relates to many concerns of the period in which Riley came of age: challenging the mind-body duality leading Aldous Huxley to experiment with hallucinogenic drugs; fears regarding the loss of genuine individual experience; concerns about the future and threat of nuclear war amidst the Cold War; and a perceived need for audience participation.

2.

Riley was inspired by the Italian Futurists

Bagatelle 2 by Bridget RileyBagatelle 2 by Bridget Riley, 2015

Exemplary of Riley’s non-representational approach to painting, motivated by the work of the Italian Futurists, the Bagatelle series depicts hard-edged forms rendered in Riley’s distinct monochrome.

3.

This series references a French billiards game

Bagatelle 1 by Bridget RileyBagatelle 1 by Bridget Riley, 2015

The shapes in this series subtly move and shift as the viewer’s eyes skirt across, referencing the erratic, user-generated motions of the French billiards game, bagatelle.

4.

Riley was influenced by the painter Victor Varsarley

Fragment 4 by Bridget RileyFragment 4 by Bridget Riley, 1965

The paintings of Victor Varsarley were of great influence to Riley, who had used designs of black and white lines since the 1930s.

5.

The Cornish seas were also a key inspiration for Riley's work

Coloured Greys 2 by Bridget RileyColoured Greys 2 by Bridget Riley, 1972

Riley’s childhood spent in Cornwall, escaping war-torn London, also had an impact on her work. Riley confesses that the ever-changing Cornish seas and skies stimulated her vision.

6.

Riley creates a new way of seeing in these works

Coloured Greys 1 by Bridget RileyColoured Greys 2 by Bridget Riley, 1972

Riley's optically stimulating works can be read as an attempt to recreate the wonder of seeing, which could not be effectively captured by a representational image.

7.

Abstraction creates meaning in these works for Riley

Untitled (Based on Blaze) by Bridget RileyUntitled (Based on Blaze) by Bridget Riley, 1965

Exploring the interplay of shape, line and light, Riley embraced abstraction as a conduit to discover meaning in her work.

8.

Riley began her first Op Art paintings whilst teaching

Untitled (Based On Movement In Squares) by Bridget RileyUntitled (Based On Movement In Squares) by Bridget Riley, 1962

Whilst undertaking a part-time teaching post at Hornsey College of Art from 1960-61 Riley began her first Op Art paintings.

9.

Riley explores geometry in these works

Intervals II by Bridget RileyIntervals II by Bridget Riley, 2019

Working in simple geometrical forms, Riley confesses: “I started studying squares, rectangles, triangles and the sensations they gave rise to. […] The marks on the canvas are the sole and essential agents in a series of relationships which form the structure of painting."

10.

Riley's works form relational encounters with the viewer

Nineteen Greys B by Bridget RileyNineteen Greys B by Bridget Riley, 1968

Impersonal, and obviously unrelated to the world, Op Art is based on geometric abstraction. However, there is still meaning embedded within this: the work is never intended to be an end in itself, but a medium through which each viewer has a subjective experience, influenced by their own understandings.