Bridget Riley b. 1931

Bridget Riley is a British painter and designer who is the most celebrated exponent of Op art.

 

She was born in London and studied there at Goldsmiths' College, 1949-52, and the Royal College of Art, 1952-5. Her interests in optical effects came partly through her study of the Neo-Impressionist technique of pointillism, but when she took up Op art in the early 1960s she worked initially in black-and-white. She turned to colour in 1966. By this time she had attracted widespread attention (one of her paintings was used for the cover to the catalogue of the exhibition 'The Responsive Eye' at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1965, the exhibition that put Op art on the map), and the seal was set on her reputation when she won the International Painting Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1968.

 

She was born in London and studied there at Goldsmiths' College, 1949-52, and the Royal College of Art, 1952-5. Her interests in optical effects came partly through her study of the Neo-Impressionist technique of pointillism, but when she took up Op art in the early 1960s she worked initially in black-and-white. She turned to colour in 1966. By this time she had attracted widespread attention (one of her paintings was used for the cover to the catalogue of the exhibition 'The Responsive Eye' at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1965, the exhibition that put Op art on the map), and the seal was set on her reputation when she won the International Painting Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1968.

Riley's work shows a complete mastery of the effects characteristic of Op art, particularly subtle variations in size, shape, or placement of serialized units in an overall pattern. It is often on a large scale and she frequently makes use of assistants for the actual execution. Although her paintings often create effects of vibration and dazzle, she has also designed a decorative scheme for the interior of the Royal Liverpool Hospital (1983) that uses soothing bands of blue, pink, white, and yellow and is reported to have caused a drop in vandalism and graffiti. She has also worked in theatre design, making sets for a ballet called Colour Moves (first performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1983); unusually, the sets preceded the composition of the music and choreography. Riley has travelled widely (a visit to Egypt in 1981 was particularly influential on her work, as she was inspired by the colours of ancient Egyptian art) and she has studios in London, Cornwall, and Provence. She writes of her work: 'My paintings are not concerned with the Romantic legacy of Expressionism, nor with Fantasies, Concepts or Symbols. I draw from Nature, although in completely new terms. For me, Nature is not landscape, but the dynamism of visual forces-an event rather than an appearance-these forces can only be tackled by treating colour and form as ultimate identities, freeing them from all descriptive or functional roles.'
 
'A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art', 1999, copyright Ian Chilvers