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Art from us

Artist in Focus : Bridget Riley

In this section for Art From Us, we pick one artist to showcase their work and creative journey so far. Today, we look at Bridget Riley.

Art From Us & Divvya Nirula introduce you to artists and their art. Underlining significant works, discovering creative practices. And giving you a glimpse into their studio.

Early Life

Born as Bridget Louise Riley, in 1931, the world would know her as the vibrant Op Artist who inspired many. Riley was born to a family of printmakers and though she studied at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and later art at Goldsmiths College, destiny would lead her to the Royal College of Art in London.

Riley’s father owned his own print making business, but the Second World War changed his life. During the WWII years Riley lived in Cornwall with her mother and enjoyed a great deal of freedom. Studying nature closely, and the shifting light – she claims that it informed her practice deeply.

Her association with art and the maturing of the artist within her was a gradual process as she overcame many personal difficulties and took a long way to reach her space.

Riley and Op-Art

Riley found her mien when she synthesized her style and became a front runner in the Op Art movement. Her understanding of the underlying tenets of the movement as were clearly and vocally portrayed by Victor Vasarely in his Yellow Manifesto.

The music of colour, that’s what I want.

– Bridget Riley

It was through her own personal catharsis that an understanding was born which led to her amalgamation of the key concepts that would flower, and with profusion, as art.

Riley developed her personal style post 1958 when she travelled extensively, and gathered knowledge and experience. She was deeply influenced by her mentor Maurice de Sausmarez. Her years of working as a commercial illustrator collided first with the new concepts that she had accumulated and she was finally able to create and develop her bold and abstract style. Her first exhibition was at Victor Musgrove’s gallery, and she received critical acclaim, in 1962. Three years later Riley debuted in with a sold-out show in America at the Richard Feigen Gallery. Her smash hit show led her work to be featured prominently at The Museum of Modern Art’s influential exhibition of Op art, “The Responsive Eye.”

Legacy

The world of art considers Bridget Riley as an icon of Op Art, and she has many accolades to her name. She won the painting prize at the 1968 Venice Biennale, and the first woman to do so. She was the inspiration for future Op artists like Richard Allen and Richard Anuszkiewicz. Her work is hugely popular in the commercial field and she is scouted by designers as an inspiration for her unusual geometric abstraction. SPACE, the organisation founded by her and fellow Op artist Peter Sedgley continues to foster creative individuals and artists.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit the Artist in Focus archive.

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