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Critical Review

Lozenges by Bridgit Riley, composed of a body of work from 1998 - 2009, is characterised by planes of interlocking colour and geometric forms. Executed in a carnival of colour combinations, the sweeping motion is redolent of a dance or the undulations of nature: waves rolling on the shore, or trees being blown in the wind. Although Riley’s work is consistently abstract, it is grounded in natural experience, predominantly from her adolescence spent in Cornwall, escaping war-torn London. Riley confesses that the ever-changing Cornish seas and skies stimulated her vision, the sensations of which she seeks to recreate in non-representational painting.

Born in 1931, Riley was first propelled to international acclaim following the display of several of her black and white, optically dazzling, psychedelic works at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as a part of the 1965 exhibition The Representative Eye. Neglecting tones that were not black, white or grey until 1967, Riley’s works subsequently exploded into kaleidoscopes of colour. With this, Riley claimed she was foraying into “new perceptual art”: evolving art far beyond the realm of something purely aesthetic. Riley saw colour as capable of eliciting emotional responses in the observer. Hence, Riley revelled in exploring the visual and emotional effects of certain colour combinations, and the Lozenges collection is no exception.

Colour in this collection, like Riley’s other series, is declaratively interactive: each hue seems to change pitch and tone depending on its neighbours. Far removed from Riley’s monochromatic origins, Riley’s Lozenge works sees the abstract artist at her most confident with colour. Despite being composed of seemingly random shapes, once one's eyes focus on the mesmerising paintings, diagonal lines appear at regular intervals across the surface: evidence that the Lozenges paintings are the result of meticulous preparatory sketching. Like the rest of Riley’s oeuvre, these paintings are formulaic.

Resulting from a career-long exploration in opticality, the works in this collection's apparent boldness conceals the meticulous layers of ordering within the works. Whilst some works are more limited in their range of colour, such as Going Across (2001), others share a similar rotation of colours, such as green, blue, yellow and white in Start (2000), Echo (1998) and Frieze (2000).