Reading…Bridget Riley : colour, stripes, planes and curves

“I would expect and hope that by the year 2020 abstract painters will be extracting from this endlessly rich seam a range of exciting work that will genuinely enlarge the vocabulary of art and our perception of the world around us.” Bridget Riley

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Learning From Riley : Three Blues

The Special Display currently on at the Courtauld Gallery led me back to this beautiful book, produced by Kettle’s Yard and Ridinghouse, which accompanied the 2011 exhibition of the same name. Like the Courtauld exhibition the book really makes you think about the genesis of an artist and the influence of painters on painters.

The book is lavish in size and production. The front and back cover shows Two Reds, 2000 – a painting in which movement and rhythm are palpable and one redolent of a verdant Cornish summer from childhood. The endpapers perfectly complement the colours of Two Reds adding a fresh, pale lime green to the mix.

At the start of the conversation with Michael Harrison, then Director at Kettle’s Yard, Bridget talks about the influence that her mother and the natural world had on her visual acuity as a young girl. In an environment where the colours of shadows or the movement of water was noticed and remarked upon we get a vivid sense of how this “habit of looking” was to affect and inform her artistic development. Indeed it is an obvious point to make but the basis of her work demands that we do likewise and adopt the habit of looking intensely in order to see.  Later in the text we come to understand that for Bridget the solidity and structure provided by nature is a sort of solace, consolation and support. Titles such as To a Summer’s Day 2, Burnished Sky and Lagoon foreground the intense feeling and connection that she has with observable natural phenomena.

What comes next is an exposition of the other formative influences that are so plain to see in her work with colour, line and space…

Sam Rabin who taught her the discipline of life drawing at Goldsmiths…(I almost wanted to say line drawing as the line is so salient in her work)

Seurat paintings and her devoted copying of them to understand colour…

Several years of concentrated work with black and white…plus warm grey, cold grey, violet grey, yellow grey, green grey etc.

Excitement and recognition of the radical new beginnings and potential of Abstract painting.

A truly informative and fascinating book which provides so much insight into her artistic process.  Great for all, like me, enamoured with colour. I’m now desperate to get hold of a copy The Thinking Eye by Klee!

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