Celebrating Contemporary: Bridget Riley's Red Movement

  • 20 September 2011

Today's Celebrating Contemporary feature examines the perception-challenging work of artist Bridget Riley...

Today's Celebrating Contemporary feature examines Red Movement, a perception-challenging painting by abstract artist Bridget Riley.

The work

Red Movement is composed of relatively few elements: a repeated curving shape, parallel diagnoals and a small number of block colours. In spite of these limitations, Riley's painting is a complex, wave-like abstraction that engages the viewer and challenges their perception.

The use of pattern and colour on a huge scale (the painting is over three and a half metres wide) creates an intense sensation which, in the artist's words, opens 'a small gap of pure perception'. Red Movement can be seen at Southampton Art Gallery, who bought the piece in 2006 with help from the Art Fund.

The artist

Bridget Riley was born in London and studied art at Goldsmiths' College and the Royal College of Art. She was a leading figure in the development of Op Art, a form of abstract art which seeks to create optical effects (hence 'Op') such as movement, flashing, vibration and warping in the perception of the viewer.

In the early part of her career, Riley restricted her palette to black and white, achieving her effects through the arrangement and manipulation of patterns and shapes. In 1967 she began to experiment with colour and contrast, exploring how the human mind perceives colour through the arrangement and juxtaposition of block colours on the canvas.

Riley was chosen to represent Great Britain in the 1968 Venice Biennale, becoming the first contemporary British artist, and the first woman, to be awarded the International Prize for Painting.

Did you know?

While Riley's work can seem very modern, her technique is influenced by the work of the Old Masters, from Raphael to Seurat. One of her earliest pieces was a copy of a portrait by Jan van Eyck.

VOTE for Red Movement by Bridget Riley