Bridget Riley at David Zwirner

On the right lines

Published 20 June 2014

An exhibition tracks Bridget Riley’s return to the stripe at key points in her career, writes Chris Fite-Wassilak.

  • From the Summer 2014 issue of RA Magazine, issued quarterly to Friends of the RA.

    For more than five decades, Bridget Riley has been exploring the potential of the line in painting: fields of shifting boundaries that create disorienting optical effects and stark oppositions that ask us to look, as candidly as possible, at how our lives are immersed in light and colour. Her precise and impeccably executed geometric visions are suggestive, taut abstractions that, for Riley, are only a means to an end. “Perception,” she once stated, “is the medium.”

    This summer an exhibition at London’s David Zwirner gallery focuses exclusively on Riley’s stripe works, providing a unique perspective on her career. The show presents drawings and paintings since 1961, and includes several new works. Riley’s first uses of the stripe can be seen in paintings of thick black lines on a white background that make evocative horizons. In a more explicit reference to landscape made in her large-scale painting Prairie (1971/2003), diagonal blue lines suggest the slant of a bleak, windswept hill.

  • Bridget Riley, Lilac Painting 2

    Bridget Riley, Lilac Painting 2, 1983/2008.

    © Bridget Riley 2014. All rights reserved..

  • As she returned to the stripe, colour became increasingly important. Often Riley’s canvases are playfully multi-coloured sets of dense, vertical stripes, where each painting follows its own logic. Despite the uniform thickness of each line, varying gaps between lines and unexpected colour combinations form distinct perspectives and a sense of restless tension. Lilac Painting 2 (1983/2008) places lilac strips alongside others in green, yellow, turquoise and white, sometimes inserting a double width of one colour. The effect is as if we’re looking through a set of yellow window bars to the colours beneath.

    Bridget Riley: The Stripe Paintings 1961-2014 is at David Zwirner, London until 25 July 2014.

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