Women of Screen Printing – Bridget Riley

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The second artist in our series for women’s history month is Bridget Riley. Riley is an English artist who was born in London in 1931. She began her artistic career in the 1950s when she started attending the Royal College of Art. She created impressionism and pointillism art before she began to work on her “Op-art” in the 1960s. Riley’s optical illusion art made her a hit in Great Britain, and throughout the 1960s she grew and evolved her art form. Riley has worked in several different art mediums, with one of them being screen printing. 

 

Riley studied art at Goldsmiths College, London (1949-52) and later at the Royal College of Art (1952-55). The early years of her art centered around drawing daily life in still black and white, but soon found that she wanted to create her own style. She left the Royal College of Art in 1955 and returned to her home to Lincolnshire to care for her father. During this time, she struggled with her depression and did not create art again until 1957. From 1957-58 she taught art to girls aged 8-18 at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Harrow, and she began to explore more styles in her personal art.

 

Riley continued to shape her unique style and in the 1960s started creating her optical illusion art, or Op-art. She originally worked only in black and white and used simple geometric shapes – squares, lines, and ovals. Her art was instinctive, not based on theory but guided by what she saw with her own eyes. In the spring of 1962, she had her first solo show, at Gallery One in London. Then, in 1963, she won a prize in the open section of the John Moore’s Liverpool exhibition and took the AICA Critic’s Prize in London. This was followed by an invitation to show in the prestigious “New Generation” exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery alongside Allen Jones and David Hockney.

 

When Riley’s art was exhibited along with Victor Vasarely and others in the Museum of Modern Art in New York at an exhibition called “The Responsive Eye” in 1965, her work caught international attention. At the same time as “The Responsive Eye” exhibition, Riley held another exhibition at the Richard Feigen Gallery in New York. Tickets sold out on the first day that they went on sale – a remarkable achievement for an artist who was still in her early thirties. While most of her art had been solely black and white, in 1967 she began to use color in her Op-art. She also started to use more stabilized forms – often simple vertical straight or wavy lines. It was the positioning of the color itself that produced the feel of movement she wanted to convey. The color groupings affected the spaces between them to produce fleeting glimpses of other colors and hence the illusion of movement.

 

In the late 1960s and ’70s, Riley experimented with various color palettes and began to create art that consisted of stripes of colors. After her trip to Egypt in 1981, Riley created her Egyptian collection, writing that “The colors are purer and more brilliant than any I had used before”. In the ‘life-giving arrangement of color’ the Egyptians had used for over 3000 years Riley had found a group of colors that worked perfectly as a color scheme. During the mid-1980s. Riley began to create art of pure visual sensation, treating form and color as ‘ultimate identities’, as things in themselves. Today, Riley continues to make art and hold exhibitions for her work.

 

Bridget Riley’s art is on display in over 20 public collections and museums, and she just recently had an exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery from October 2019 – January 2020. Riley is still creating art but has also written about several artists and helped to curate exhibitions at the Tate Gallery, The Hayward Gallery, and the National Gallery in London.

 

She has received multiple awards and recognitions for her art, was given honorary doctorates by Oxford and Cambridge and served as a board member of the National Gallery in the 1980s. Riley has also been involved in several philanthropic events and between 1987 and 2014, she created three murals across the eighth, ninth and tenth floors of the Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Wing, St Mary’s Hospital, London.

 

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Pink landscape – 1960 Medium: Oil on canvas
movement in squares
Movement in Squares – 1961 Medium: Synthetic emulsion on board

 

 

 

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Fragment 3/11 – 1965 Medium: Screen print on perspex

 

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Descending – 1965-66 Medium: Emulsion on Hardboard
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Fragment 6/9 – 1965 Medium: Screen print on Perspex
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Coloured Greys III – 1972 Medium: Screen print on paper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cataract 3 – 1967 Medium: PVA on canvas

 

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Achean – 1981 Medium: Oil paint on canvas

 

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Nataraja – 1993 Medium: Oil paint on canvas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Riggs, T. “Bridget Riley.” The Tate Gallery, www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/bridget-riley-1845#.

 

“Bridget Riley.” Op-Art.co.uk., www.op-art.co.uk/bridget-riley/.

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