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Artist Focus | Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley (1931 – ), an English born artist studied at the Royal College of Art. Her career began in the 1950s when she worked in an advertising agency, in which she painted in a divisionist mode style. Originally her works’ constituted a black and white colour palette; yet, in order to create works that exhibited rhythm (minimalist art) and vibrations (op art) she introduced colour into her paintings. Her minimalist work is best defined by her paintings in which she covers canvases in vertical geometric lines that indicate a pattern of sequencing through rhythm. By working in a pattern, there is a strong sense of regularity and control and thus a rhythm is created. This control too can be seen derived from the lack of brush strokes evident on the canvas, exhibiting a smooth surface – where the hand of the artist, is lacking, just like in minimalist sculptures that were manufactured by industrial machinery. Yet, these minimalist pieces, unlike her op art pieces, are for the viewer to understand the notion of “What You See is What You Get.” For you, as the viewer, understand there is nothing more than meets the eye. Yes, you can imagine the lines continuing upwards and downwards, and even expanding in terms of width – for there is no clear sense of a border being implemented in her works, but unlike Op Art, there is no illusion to fool the eye.

Riley’s Op Art work consists of overlapping colours and patterns in which the arrangement can create an optical illusion – hence “Op Art.” These works revolve around the notion of playing a perceptual game with its viewers by no longer painting in terms of vertical lines, now, she has introduced curvilinear elements to help trick the viewer’s perception, however still on a two dimensional surface. By combining curvilinear elements with geometric elements – as in the case of vertical and horizontal lines, a push and pull ideal arises in viewing these Op Art pieces. It is as if a musical vibration has struck the painting. Which pieces of this optical puzzle are pushing forward, breaking through, and which pieces are acting as the backbone or rather, framework? This is for you, the viewer, to decide, when examining Riley’s optical illusion pieces.

Prints by Bridget Riley can be seen here.

Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley