Few artists define an era as clearly as Bridget Riley defines the 1960s. From album covers to trompe l’oeil paintings, her op art is as synonymous with the decade as Twiggy and The Beatles. Riley’s work dazzles – her optical experiences trigger sensations of vibration or movement that can disorientate the viewer – but the artist shies away from the limelight, and so her first UK exhibition since 2014 at David Zwirner’s Mayfair gallery is exciting news.
Wall painting is Riley’s current artistic focus, and she will spend a month painting directly onto the wall of the gallery to create works that will be displayed alongside canvases in the show, Bridget Riley: Recent Paintings 2014-2017, which runs from January 19 to March 10. Her wall paintings aim to dissolve the boundaries between figure, ground and support – creating a new picture plane that differs from her works on canvas.
The ground floor of the gallery will feature pieces that represent the artist’s return to painting in black and white for the first time since the 1960s. Quiver 3 (2014) picks up the triangle motif that Riley first explored in Tremor (1962; Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, Germany), and comprises tightly tessellated, irregular triangles that combine to create a subtle sense of undulation across the surface of the canvas. Here, she revisits the equilateral triangle, but introduces a curved edge that greatly modulates the overall tenor of the composition.
The artworks displayed on the first floor of the gallery introduce new motifs for the artist: those of discs or spots. Though new to Riley’s lexicon, these shapes can be traced to the artist’s Deny paintings of 1966, which feature gridded circular forms created during a period when Riley began to experiment with colour – and incorporated grey tones into her compositions as a chromatic intermediary between black and white.
A collection of studies that offer crucial insights into the artist’s working method will be on display in the Upper Room. Riley’s abstract compositions are inspired by Old Masters and the paintings of post-impressionists such as Seurat and Pissarro, as well as her own early experiences with nature. She has focused exclusively on work that explores simple geometric forms since 1961: lines, circles, curves and squares on different mediums – from canvas to paper and wall. Her work is as entrancing and relevant today as it was in the Swinging Sixties.