British artist, whose vibrant optical pattern paintings were central to the Op Art movement of the 1960s.

Riley attended the Royal College of Art from 1952-55 and, until 1960, painted primarily impressionistic landscapes and figures. Her study of the Pointillists led to experiments in colour juxtaposition, and under the influence of Victor Vasarely her work took on a geometric abstraction, in which intricate patterns of black and white or alternating colours are calculated to produce illusions of movement, colour, and topography. She won a first prize at the Venice Biennale in 1968. Notable works include "Drift No. 2" (1966) and "Nineteen Greys" (1968).

She has this to say about being an artist, which I like a lot:
"You can't simply go for being an artist as such. You must wait to find something which excites you, fires your imagination, your desire, creates a real longing to do that one thing. If you can centre on that you can make a beginning. You don't worry where you are going, because you are moving. Desire is the key. It comes and goes. It's rhythmic. You languish: when you have a problem you become bored. Boredom is a tremendous indicator. Your energy goes; it caves in on you; you can't do anything. That's very frightening but you must listen, because you are being told that whatever it is you are doing is not quite right. There are a bewildering number of directions you can go, but it's not right if it doesn't feel right."

She also said this:
But deplorable though the disappearance of painting certainly is, it is only a phase in its renewal. It would be a mistake to think that when painting is not widely appreciated, it necessarily means that it is in a bad way. Real confusion does have an advantage in that it makes one determined to try to get it right, or—more to the point—it can stimulate young artists to sort out the mess preceding generations have landed them in.
Her early works, shimmering, apparently three-dimensional sweeps of gradually changing black and white, are very well known, quite iconic, and often reproduced without her permission (she tracks them down and stops them wherever possible) and without the realization that it's specifically an artwork and not merely a common pattern or effect.

Her later works have penetrated less into public consciousness, and have a much more complex use of colours. The proposed new EU flag designed by Rem Koolhaas, made of vertical stripes from all the flags of the members, looks like a poor imitation of later Bridget Riley.

She was born in London in 1931. She won the International Painting Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1968. I first saw her work in the mass at a large retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery in 1999, the year she was appointed Companion of Honour.

For some images of her work see:

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