Bridget Riley creates massive, brightly hued abstract canvases with overwhelming colors and patterns. Riley was born in London and studied at London’s Royal College of Art and has studios in London, Cornwall, and Vaucluse France. She developed an optical style in the 1960s, known as Op Art, in which hallucinatory images were created. Her first works were in black and white in repeated geometric patterns, and it is these black and white paintings for which she is best known.
In 1966, she began to use some color, varying in depth and tone. After visiting Egypt in the early 1980s and seeing colorful hieroglyphics, Riley incorporated more color into her work, which was painted in three distinctive patterns. The first pattern was the use of very thin vertical stripes as seen in “Delos” 1983 and “Blue Return” 1984. The second consisted of paintings whose vertical orientation was disrupted by diagonal bars – sometimes in layers of colorful diamonds, such as ”Between” 1989. The third technique, made after 1998, was her use of interlocking waves where the verticals and diagonals are complemented by round and gently curved shapes. Here the forms are larger and the number of colors smaller, which brings a sense of calm to the composition.
Riley has been using scissors for some time now, and the placement of the cutouts comes before the actual painting. In her wall painting “Arcadia 3, 2009/2011” Riley combines her use of cutouts with a restricted palette. The actual painting was done by her assistants so that Riley could achieve detachment from the work.
In 1968, Riley represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale where she was the first British contemporary painter and the first woman to be awarded the International Prize for painting. In 2003, Tate Britain organized a major retrospective of her work. She has had several retrospective shows in galleries in London and New York.