Coloured greys 2 by Bridget Riley copy

Coloured Greys Bridget Riley

The series of screen prints Coloured Greys – encompassing Coloured Greys 1 and Coloured Greys 2 – best epitomises American artist Bridget Riley’s experimental and intriguing engagement with Op Art, daringly embodying what is now known as the “Riley Sensation” through her use of repetitive patterns that deceive the spectator’s eye as they gaze through the image.

The two prints’ repetition of geometrical abstract forms and undulated movements instantly collocate them within the artistic endeavours of Op Art, a Post War abstract movement. Simultaneously, the choice of dim and light-coloured undertones situates the pieces close to Riley’s earliest monochromatic works, examples of which are Blaze or Nineteen Greys C, right before Riley began to adopt the vibrant and bright nuances of works like Shadow Play and Fête. Thus, the prints pertain to a historical turning point in Riley’s career, attesting to the transition towards her more playful and vivacious pieces whilst inheriting the subtlety of her earliest artistic efforts.

The prints strike in their perfect repetition of geometrical undulated lines. However, closer inspection and engagement with the wavy patterns reveals the optical illusion of movement working at the core of the pieces. Though initially championing the repetition of abstract forms seemingly executed with mechanical precision, the prints reveal themselves as provocatively-constructed optical experiments meant to play with the viewer’s visual and perceptual field: the undulated linear pattern affects the viewer’s optic nerves and induces a deceitful sensation of movement, introducing three-dimensional corporeality to the bi-dimensionality of the paper. This false effect of movement endows the prints with a dynamic quality, stimulating the perpetual response of the viewer and inducing an activation of vision operated through an illusory sensation of movement.

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