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b. 1931, United Kingdom

Bridget Riley Biography

English artist Bridget Riley is best known as one of the early proponents of the Op art movement of the 1960s. Riley studied at Goldsmiths in London, between 1949 and 1952, and continued her education at the Royal College of Art in London, from 1952 to 1955.

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Her earliest works were semi-Impressionist figure paintings, followed, from around 1958, by pointillist landscapes. During the late 1950s and early 1960s Riley took up several teaching positions in the U.K, including the Loughborough University School of the Arts, Hornsey College of Art and Croydon School of Art. In 1960 she also entered the employ of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency.

In the 1960s, Riley began to develop her trademark style: abstract geometric patterns in black and white, composed of curved parallel lines and dots, checkers or triangles arranged in disorienting grid-like or spiral patterns. These combinations form impossible shapes that appear to move, pulsate and undulate before the viewer's eyes, producing sensations of falling and wave-like motion. In 1961, due to increased scale and a need to retain precision, she began working with assistants to produce her work. Her first solo show was in 1962 at Victor Musgrave's, Gallery One.

Riley abandoned teaching and advertising in the mid-1960s as her art practice expanded. The 1965 Museum of Modern Art exhibition, The Responsive Eye, drew international attention to the work of Riley and other Op artists. Riley represented Op art to the world alongside artists such as Yaacov Agam, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Frank Stella and Op art's earliest proponent, Victor Vasarely. Her work Current (1964), made of synthetic polymer paint on exhibition board, fronted the exhibition catalogue.

Having set form free from its descriptive role through her black and white works, in 1967 Riley turned to colour. It was a cautious foray at first, as a common perception of colour is that it does not disrupt stable elements in as crisp and orderly a manner as black and white. As exemplified in the canvas Cataract 3 (1967) she began using consistent, stable forms such as the wavy line, and relying on the visual effect of groups of coloured lines (usually faint) in the spaces between to create the desired sensation of movement.

The response to colour became a more central focus of Riley's works in the 1970s. The works from this period are emotional yet peaceful. In the acrylic painting Zing 1 (1971), she introduced the theme of the colour twist, where twisted vertical stripes create horizontal bands. In these twists, the colours are still muted, and grey is often included among them. Riley also adopted the principle of colour induction: blending one colour into another. These elements led to a long series of vertical stripe paintings. Toward the mid-1970s, her curvilinear forms, both in horizontal and vertical formats, became more prominent. Only her works after 1978, however, feature more than three colours.

A visit to Egypt in 1979–80 left Riley inspired by the colours of Egyptian art. In the 'Ka' and 'Ra' series she worked the colours into a composition of close, thin vertical lines. These images shimmer with intensity while marking the expulsion of a sense of order or progression in her work. She also worked outside the studio in this decade, the most notable project being the murals for Royal Liverpool Hospital (1983), which utilised bands of blue, white, pink and yellow to create a soft and relaxing atmosphere.

Between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s, Riley produced her most colourful and dazzling paintings. Works such as the screenprint To Midsummer (1989) and the oil painting From Here (1994) incorporated a diagonal element that cut from left to right across the verticals, creating an alternating rhythm through the contrast of different vivid colours. This disruptive element softened in the late 1990s and early 2000s to something more fluid and curvilinear that broke out of the square format.

Riley has recently expanded her methodologies once again by revisiting her horizontal and vertical line formats with new colour arrangements. She continues to develop, exploring new motifs such as the tessellating arrow-forms of the 'Bagatelle' (2015) and 'Sonnet' (2016) series of screen prints.

Bridget Riley Featured Artworks

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Untitled by Bridget Riley contemporary artwork
Bridget RileyUntitled, 1969Gouache and pencil on paper
38 x 66 cm
Gazelli Art House Contact Gallery
Study for Static II by Bridget Riley contemporary artwork
Bridget RileyStudy for Static II, 1966Pen, heightened with gouache
52 x 32 cm
Gazelli Art House Contact Gallery
After Wall Painting (Arcadia 3) by Bridget Riley contemporary artwork
Bridget RileyAfter Wall Painting (Arcadia 3), 2010Screenprint
56 x 92.8 cm
Karsten Schubert Contact Gallery
Measure for Measure 39 by Bridget Riley contemporary artwork
Bridget RileyMeasure for Measure 39, 2019Acrylic on linen
172 x 172 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Bagatelle 1 by Bridget Riley contemporary artwork
Bridget RileyBagatelle 1, 2015Screenprint on paper
Karsten Schubert Contact Gallery
Measure for Measure 24 by Bridget Riley contemporary artwork
Bridget RileyMeasure for Measure 24, 2018Acrylic on canvas
156 x 156 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Descending by Bridget Riley contemporary artwork
Bridget RileyDescending, 1965Emulsion on board
91.5 x 91.5 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Divertimento by Bridget Riley contemporary artwork
Bridget RileyDivertimento, 2016Acrylic on canvas
136.5 x 198 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire

Bridget Riley Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Cross Atlantic at Gazelli Art House, London
Closed
9 July–29 August 2020 Group Exhibition Cross Atlantic Gazelli Art HouseOnline Only
Contemporary art exhibition, Bridget Riley, Studies: 1984–1997 at David Zwirner, London
Closed
6 March–31 July 2020 Bridget Riley Studies: 1984–1997 David ZwirnerLondon
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Show, Lasting Impressions at Dellasposa Gallery, London
Closed
4 March–30 May 2020 Group Show Lasting Impressions Dellasposa GalleryLondon

Bridget Riley Represented By

David Zwirner contemporary art gallery in 19th Street, New York, USA David Zwirner New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong
Sprüth Magers contemporary art gallery in Berlin, Germany Sprüth Magers Berlin, London, Los Angeles

Bridget Riley In Related Press

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Paper work – the British Museum shows off its collection of contemporary drawings Related Press Paper work – the British Museum shows off its collection of contemporary drawings 4 November 2019, Apollo Magazine

Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois, Rachel Whiteread, Gerhard Richter. These may not be names that spring to mind when you think of the British Museum, but they all have work filed away in its extensive archive of prints and drawings. 'Pushing Paper: Contemporary Drawing from 1970 to Now' lifts a lid on a lesser-known collection at a museum renowned...

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Bridget Riley’s Razzle-Dazzle Career Related Press Bridget Riley’s Razzle-Dazzle Career 14 September 2019, Hyperallergic

Even for those familiar with modernism's history in the latter half of the 20th century, the story of the life of the British painter Bridget Riley and the development of her work is not very well known. Now, though, Paul Moorhouse's well-researched, lucid new biography, Bridget Riley: A Very Very Person (Ridinghouse, 2019) may help reveal to a...

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The Making of An Artist: How Bridget Riley Became the Queen of Op Art Related Press The Making of An Artist: How Bridget Riley Became the Queen of Op Art 1 September 2019, Elephant

Bridget Riley is a name so familiar that it seems baffling nobody has previously written in-depth about her early years, and how she rose to such a stellar place in our cultural lexicon. A new book from publisher Ridinghouse explores her journey from British wartime beginnings to her rise as darling of the New York art world—and one of the...

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Vanishing Point: Bridget Riley’s Elusive Art Related Press Vanishing Point: Bridget Riley’s Elusive Art 23 January 2018, Elephat

The work of Bridget Riley (b. 1931) has always created something barely there, disappearing even as you glimpse it. At the preview for her new show Recent Paintings 2014–2017 at David Zwirner in Mayfair, the 86-year-old artist appeared unannounced to speak for a few minutes and vanish again. She rarely does publicity for her work. The gallery only...

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