Bridget Riley was born in London in 1931. After spending the war years with her mother, sister and aunt in Cornwall, she studied at Goldsmiths College and the Royal College of Art.
Riley first attracted critical attention with the dazzling black and white paintings she began to make in 1961. These works became celebrated for their disturbing and disorientating optical effects (for which the term ‘Op Art’ was coined), as well as for their undeniable and surprising beauty. Her participation in the seminal exhibition, The Responsive Eye, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965, established her as an artist of the first rank. This position was confirmed at the Venice Biennale in 1968 when she became the first British contemporary painter and the first woman to win the International Prize for painting.
Since then Riley has remained at the forefront of developments in contemporary painting, making highly distinctive works which are abstract and non-descriptive, but which offer visual experiences closely related to those found in nature. She has commented: ‘the eye can travel over the surface in a way parallel to the way it moves over nature. It should feel caressed and soothed, experience frictions and ruptures, glide and drift. Vision can be arrested, tripped up or pulled back in order to float free again. It encounters reflections, echoes and fugitive flickers which when traced evaporate. One moment there will be nothing to look at and the next second the canvas seems to refill, to be crowded with visual events.’
While celebrated for her black and white paintings of the early 1960s, Riley’s real concern has always been in the resonating effect of colour.. Since late 1967, when her first colour stripe paintings appeared, Riley has sought to articulate an abstract language in which relations of colour and form generate a range of visual sensations. The impression of light in all its chromatic variety and intensity, and a sense of subtle and sometimes vibrant movement, are among the complex perceptions yielded by her paintings. It is no surprise that her main influences are artists such as Seurat, Klee and van Gogh.
A retrospective exhibition, Bridget Riley: Paintings from the 1960s and 1970s was held at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 1999 and she was the subject of another retrospective, at Tate Modern, in the summer of 2003.
Riley currently lives and works in London and France.
Selected Solo Exhibitions
1962 Bridget Riley Gallery One, London
1965 Bridget Riley Richard Feigen Gallery, New York: Feigen-Palmer Gallery, LA
1966-67 Bridget Riley Drawings, The Museum of Modern Art New York, and touring USA
1968 British Pavilion, XXXIV Venice Biennale
1970-71 Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, Arts Council touring exhibition – Hanover, Berne, Dusseldorf, Turin, Prague & London
1973 Paintings and Drawings 1961-1973, Arts Council touring exhibition – Manchester, Sheffield, Durham, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Letchworth & Bristol
1978-79 Bridget Riley: Works 1959-78, British Council touring exhibition USA, Australia & Japan
1980-82 Bridget Riley: Silkscreen Prints 1965-78, Arts Council Touring exhibition, UK
1992-93 Bridget Riley Paintings 1982-1992, Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Josef Albers Museum, Quadrat Bottrop; Hayward Gallery, London; Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
1994 Bridget Riley: Six Paintings 1963-1993, Tate Gallery, London
1996 Bridget Riley: Paintings and Gouaches 1980-1995, Leeds City Art Gallery
1999 Bridget Riley: Paintings from the 1960s and 70s, Serpentine Gallery, London
2003 Bridget Riley, Tate Britain, London
2008 Bridget Riley-Retrospective Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 12 June 2006 – 14 September 2009.
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