BRIDGET RILEY at The Royal Scottish Academy The Mound, Edinburgh from 15 June – 22 September 2019 is a rare chance to not only see not only some of the most iconic images of the “Op Art” era, but trace the evolution of this remarkable artist from her own personal early artistic influences to current works.
Whenever I think of Bridget Riley’s work it is so often associated with her famous “Op Art” era with lines, circles and dots often overlapping to create carefully crafted optical displacements and illusions that force our eyes and mind into re-adjusting to what is expected to be before our eyes. This, however, is only one facet of the work of one of the last, and great exponents of this era. Bridget Riley was born in 1931 and has enjoyed a prominent artistic and internationally influential career spanning many decades, but with this exhibition (the first major survey of Riley’s work to be held in the UK for 16 years) we get the chance to not only view in a linear time line progression the development of a style that has created some of the most immediately identifiable images in mid-late 20th century art, but also by looking at works that influenced her as an artist and early portrait works by Bridget, we get a glimpse into the thoughts behind so many of these “trademark” works.
No artist ever creates in a vacuum, and her observations of nature and the world around us have influenced Bridget Riley like so many other artists before (and after) her, but it is her careful study of the work of other painters, and they way that they interpreted the world around them, that has also had a major influence upon her work, in particular Georges Seurat (1859-91), Claude Monet (1840-1926), Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Henri Matisse (1859-91), Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) and Paul Klee (1879-1940). With our exhibition starting at these early influences, we start to understand why for example Georges Seurat and his pointillism so clearly influences Bridget’s “Op Art” so many years later; their views of the world share the same visual source material.
Many of the works in this exhibition I have seen so many times before either in publications or as prints, but nothing really prepares you for seeing these images on a gallery wall as, apart from the sheer size of some of the canvases, the visual power of the colours alone are so striking, and nothing really prepares you for standing in front of one of these “optical distortions” when you can so easily feel yourself at times just being mesmerised by the graphics and “falling into” the world that these twisting lines, circles and geometric patterns makes.
This exhibition is a rare chance to view “Op Art” classics like the vertical lines of “Chant 2”, (1967) and the visual perspective bending “Over” (1966) in the same exhibition space as the very Georges Seurat influenced “Pink Landscape” (1960).
Oddly enough, so many of these images now make even more sense to me in our digital age as we are surrounded in our daily lives now by a world made up of digital pixilation and fractal geometry. Anyone familiar with a digital television screen not working will recognise at least in part “High Sky” (1991). There is almost that feeling with some of these iconic images of an “artistic prophesy of images” which we are only now really coming to terms with as a society.
Review by Tom King
15 June – 22 September 2019
Royal Scottish Academy
The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL
0131 624 6200 | nationalgalleries.org
Tickets: £15 to £13 (Concessions available)
25 & under: £10-£8.50 | Free for our Friends