Bridget Riley at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art

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Image: Bridget Riley 'Burn' 1964
Image: Bridget Riley 'Burn' 1964
Image: Bridget Riley ‘Burn’ 1964

Perhaps you know Bridget Riley’s work well, or perhaps like myself, you are new to the ‘Op’ artist, whom I discovered only myself last week when I stumbled across her newest exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

So who is she, and why should we care? Whilst the Scottish National Galleries’ exhibition, Facing the World, which includes the likes of self-portraits by big names such as Rembrandt and Ai Weiwei, is sure to be a crowd pleaser, why should one venture off Princes Street to visit Riley’s exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art? From a purely aesthetic point of view, the answer is that rarely so is the eye treated to such a feast of colour, pattern and fun as Riley’s bold paintings allow. However, as one would expect in any artist exhibiting in the renowned modern art gallery, Riley’s work does of course carry major historical significance.

The contemporary English artist is one of the foremost exponents of Op art, her daring and eye catching work gained her international attention in the 1960’s when the movement came to fruition. Op art uses purely geometric form to create its effects, drawing on colour theory and the physiology and psychology of perception, often creating the illusion of movement. With the rise of Op art, Riley became one of Britain’s most important abstract artists, creating complex visual sensations and exploring fundamental ideas of perception. The artist had originally been influenced by the curving forms seen in the Italian Futurist, Umberto Boccioni’s works. Riley concentrated purely on shape and pattern in her early monochromatic works before experimenting with jarring, eye-popping colour in her clean-edged designs.

Image: Bridget Riley 'Over' 1966
Image: Bridget Riley ‘Over’ 1966

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s display, focuses on major paintings from throughout her 50 career (1963-2015). The exhibition charts her fascinating dialogue with colour, from her early monochrome works, her move to grey, then to colour, and then her recent move back to monochrome, now influenced by her preceding paintings with colour. The exhibition offers us a rare opportunity to see much of Riley’s work now in private hands, as well as put context to Riley’s painting Over (1966), which has been held at the gallery since 1979.

Exhibition: Bridget Riley – Painting, 1963-2015, is taking place from 15 April 2016 to 16 April 2017 at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One). Admission is free.

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