In a period of abstraction and challenges to traditional modes of painting, in 1961 British artist Bridget Riley began her career of pushing boundaries even further with her paintings and prints which challenge the ways in which we see.

Riley’s works are captivating and certainly experiential. Dynamic in design and eye catching in colour, reproductions do no justice to the optical illusions that are created when standing before a Riley work. Her subject matter is perception and the way in which we see, therefore removing from her work the possibility of a higher meaning. In fact, Riley opposed the assumption that abstraction must represent something, stating that “colours, lines, shapes and spaces don’t have to stand in for double duty. They are and can be themselves. Then one is curious about what they can do, allowed to stand on their own two feet.”

Riley’s clever manipulation of her canvases and papers caught international attention in 1965, when she exhibited her Op Art paintings alongside Victor Vasarely at an exhibition called The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. From this exhibition, Riley’s work captured the public’s imagination and inspired the fashion, design and advertising industries – her artwork even being worn by Keith Moon, the drummer of The Who. Her ground-breaking experiments with colour and shape continue to be acknowledged through grand commissions such as the 56-meter-long mural for St Mary’s Hospital in London and awards. Notably, in 1968 Riley became the first woman to win the coveted International Painting Prize at the Venice Biennale.

 

Bridget Riley
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