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Critical Review

An exploration into the interaction between shapes and colour, Riley’s disorientating Elongated Triangles were first produced in 1971. Composed of triangles facing opposite ways, in varying colour combinations, Elongated Triangles, executed in 1971, explores the behaviour of interacting shapes and colours. The repetition and alterations of colour combinations enable Riley to clarify the effect she is seeking. Riley, famous for her contributions to the Op Art movement, rose to fame following the exhibition The Responsive Eye at The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965, which included several of Riley’s dizzying black and white works.

Successive horizontal lines, arranged in peaks and troughs, evoke the design of a backgammon board, in electrifying colours. This series, derived from a pioneering approach to making art that is wholly calculated and mathematical, reveals the sublime aspects of art, achieved by precise sequencing and the honing of repetitions. Elongated Triangles, a significant series in Riley’s oeuvre, demonstrates the inspiration Riley took from Georges Seurat’s Bridge of Courbevoie, which Riley studied meticulously for two years, noting how varying colour combinations create a sense of movement when perceived by the eye. Unquestionably, this is precisely what Riley is endeavouring to explore in this series with electrifying colour combinations that dazzle and mesmerise. The stability of Riley’s solid, horizontal lines are vital to the study of colour, which is inherently unstable, since the perception of it is variable on external factors such as light and surrounding colours. The eye, when looking at one line of colour, perceives a hint of the next colour, creating a sense of movement.

Elongated Triangles is exemplar of Riley’s dizzying effect on her viewers: one’s eyes scan the surface for a focal point, yet there is no place for one’s attention to settle. Conceived from countless decisions regarding structure, scale, colour and composition, Riley’s works are mathematically precise and the Elongated Triangles series is no exception.

Riley maintains that our sensory experiences connect us to a world of emotion: when we see, we feel. Seeking to challenge the way people encounter and view paintings, Riley strips her works of representational content. Representational forms would only distract from Riley’s formal interests. From this emerges Riley’s simplified visual language: the elements colour, shape and form, as evinced in the works constituting Elongated Triangles.