If ever an artist compelled us to use our eyes, it is Bridget Riley. Her geometric forms, dynamic stripes and disorientating lines immerse viewers so deeply in the visual experience that the eye is tricked into perceiving movement or sensing the vibration of contrasting colours. The British artist exploded onto the global art scene in the 1960s with her Op Art and Stripe paintings. For these and later works she arrived at the final image by making a number of preliminary studies, and it was through them that she began exploring the serial potential of print making.
Now, at a dazzling retrospective in London – Bridget Riley: Prints 1962-2015, running from Wednesday February 25 to Friday March 20 – fans have a chance to acquire around 40 of these prints (£2,500-£45,000), including the first she ever made. Only one of each print exhibited (all from editions of 75) is available to buy.
Screen printing is a very precise technique that perfectly parallels the nature of Riley’s paintings. Since 1962 – right up to the present day – her print works have run in tandem with her paintings, each progressing in style and subject matter as the other changed. Since this show focuses on complete groups hung together, it’s possible to discern the subtle changes that took place as Riley explored colour, contrast and form to create her mesmeric and enduring work, and it’s fascinating to see how each print relates to others in the same series.
Riley’s first series – Fragments (example in first picture) – is screen printed on Plexiglas. All seven of these dynamic images are on display, along with all four prints from the series Nineteen Greys, with their 19 varying shades of grey. Further complete groups of prints are Coloured Greys, Elongated Triangles and Arcadia, while other significant series include Untitled (Based on Blaze), Untitled (Based on Primitive Blaze), RA (Inverted) (example in second picture) and Silvered 2. Especially eye-catching is Passing By (example in third picture).
“Riley’s prints are a wonderful overview of her career as a whole,” says Lyndsey Ingram, director of Sims Reed Gallery, which is holding the show in conjunction with Riley’s representative Karsten Schubert. “Stylistically, they relate to her paintings, but always retain the unique character of screen printing. Now in its sixth decade, Riley’s work remains as fresh and relevant today as it did in the 1960s.”