How can you be sure what you’re seeing? Artists have long played with human perception, and this exhibition explores how the science of colour has impacted on art.

From the Impressionists to contemporary names like Daniel Buren and Lothar Götz, this mind-bending survey explores the work of those fascinated by optical illusions, tricks and stimuli.

Bookending the show’s title, Georges Seurat and Bridget Riley demonstrate different approaches: the 19th-century French painter’s pointillist works generate colours not actually applied to the canvas, while Op Art pioneer Riley’s dynamic waves communicate a sense of motion and can even effect a feeling of physical disorientation in the viewer.

Coming to fruition in the 1960s, the Op Art movement represented the climax of a heightened 20th-century interest in the science and philosophy of perception – a period that is extensively explored here, with early examples coming from MC Escher, Josef Albers and others.

As well as Buren and Götz, current playful practitioners on show include 2005 Turner Prize nominee Jim Lambie and woodcut printmaker Christiane Baumgartner, who find themselves positioned alongside many of Riley’s fellow Op Art luminaries such as Victor Vasarely and Jesús Rafael Soto. You might want to adjust your glasses.

The Holburne Museum

Great Pulteney Street, Bath, Somerset, BA2 4DB

01225 388588


Opening times

Mon – Sat, 10am – 5pm Sun and Bank Holidays, 11am – 5pm

Closed 24 – 26 Dec and 1 Jan

Free to all

Free entry with National Art Pass

50% off exhibitions with National Art Pass

20% off in café

Valid to 31 December 2019

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