Sunday, 29 April 2012


“It is our illusions that create the world” - Didier van Cauwelaert
Op art, also known as optical art, is a style of visual art that makes use of optical illusions. Op art works are abstract, with many of the better known pieces made in only black and white. When the viewer looks at them, the impression is given of movement, hidden images, flashing and vibration, patterns, or alternatively, of swelling or warping. This art became popular in the 1960s, but as more artists became involved in the movement, the predominantly black and white style became infused by colour.

Bridget Louise Riley CH CBE (born 24 April 1931) is an English painter who is one of the foremost proponents of Op art. Riley was born in London and spent her childhood in Cornwall and Lincolnshire. She was educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. She studied art first at Goldsmiths College (1949–52), and later at the Royal College of Art (1952–55), where her fellow students included artists Peter Blake and Frank Auerbach.

Her early work was figurative with a semi-impressionist style. Around 1960 she began to develop her signature Op Art style consisting of black and white geometric patterns that explore the dynamism of sight and produce a disorienting effect on the eye. Early in her career, Riley worked as an art teacher from 1957-58 at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Harrow. Later she worked at the Loughborough School of Art (1959), Hornsey College of Art, and Croydon College of Art (1962–64). She also worked as an illustrator for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency prior to giving it up in 1964. In 1968 Riley, with Peter Sedgley and Peter Townsend, created the artists' organization SPACE (Space Provision Artistic Cultural and Educational), with the goal of providing artists large and affordable studio space.

Bridget Riley may be best known for her optical black and white paintings – now  synonymous with the 1960s – but in the stunning colour work that she started experimenting with in 1967, she continued her exploration of perception through the relationship between structure and colour. In 1968, Riley represented Great Britain in the Venice Biennale. She was the first British contemporary painter, and the first woman, to be awarded the prestigious International Prize for painting. In many works since this period, Riley has employed others to paint the pieces, while she concentrates on the actual design of her work.

In 2009 Bridget Riley was recipient of Germany’s most prestigious prize, The Goslar Award for Modern Art and in 2012 she will be awarded the Rubenspreis der Stadt Siegen. Her work is in the collection of major international museums including Neues Museum, Nurnberg; MoMA, New York; Tate Gallery, London; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo among others. Two wall paintings as well as paintings and studies are also currently on view in a unique exhibition, Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work, at the National Gallery in London, which was on view until 22 May 2011.

The work above is “Debut”, 1988, oil on linen, 167,6 x 226,1 cm.

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