Green with Turquoise, 1983
Pencil and gouache on paper: 33.9(h) x 29.1(w) in / 86(h) x 74(w) cm
Signed, inscribed and dated 1983
Born London 1931
Green with Turquoise, 1983
Signed, dated and inscribed lower left and right: Green with Turquoise, Bridget Riley 1983
Pencil and gouache on paper: 33 ⅞ x 29 ⅛ in / 86 x 74 cm
Frame size: 35 ½ x 31 in / 90.2 x 78.7 cm
Galerie Max Hetzler, Paris Private collection, Mexico Private collection, UK
1980 marked a breakthrough for Bridget Riley, signalling a new direction, palette and structure, as well as the move to painting in oils. The present work represents Riley’s exhilarating use of what she terms her ‘Egyptian palette’, arrived at after a visit to Egypt in the winter of 1979-80. The museum at Cairo and the ancient tombs at Luxor, inspired a palette of powerful colours, whose brilliance necessitated a return to a simplified formal structure: the neutral stripe. As Frances Spalding notes, this palette drew not on any direct sampling of colours associated with Egypt and its art, but evolved through memory, in an attempt to recover sensations of the most fleeting sort – it is Riley’s belief that the pleasures of sight take one by surprise and that attempts to prolong them destroy their purity and freshness.
In Bridget Riley’s stripe paintings of the early 1980s, the colour chords created by the alignment of the stripes form harmonious compositions. In the present work, pure colour is punctuated with bars of bright white that charge the pictorial event with rhythmic accent. The intensity of this painting owes much to the fact that the space-creating energies of colour are reined in by the precise margins of the format. If viewed from a certain distance, the stripes of Green with Turquoise, 1983 become free-floating rods of colour that bring the spatial terrain to life, neatly suspended in a white, paper frame. In her 1984 essay The Pleasures of Sight, Riley explains how she retains the memory of “looking” in relation to her art from a young age: ‘Long before I ever saw a major painting, felt the need to share an experience, knew the excitement of invention or painted my first water colour, I had been fortunate enough to discover what ‘looking’ can be – sometimes in a mere glance one can see more than in the close scrutiny of a thousand details.’ A mere glance across the pictorial space of Green with Turquoise, 1983 instantly communicates Riley’s impeccable sense of rhythm, the eye is guided through a field saturated with colour and characterised through metre.
The uniform precision of Riley’s design and immaculate finish enables the uninterrupted interaction of colour to produce a fleeting visual sensation. Like a passage of music, Riley carefully composes chords of pure colour across the canvas, a coral red, green, yellow and varying shades of blue in sequence, with strong bars of white providing a structured pause. Riley’s arrangement of fresh, bright colours animates the visual field and invites the active spectator, each new tone interacts with its neighbour and is reinterpreted through its surroundings. Though she initially chose form, Riley continues to work with colour as a medium, ‘which I believe to be more precise because it is closer to our experience of the real world. Unstable and incalculable, it is also rich and comforting. For a painter it is an ideal vehicle because it can be both a revelation and merely the surface of things.’
Bridget Riley, Kashan, 1984 Bridget Riley, Study for ‘Sultan’, 1983
Oil on linen: 211.5 x 171 cm Gouache on paper: 97 x 72.3 cm
National Museum Wales, Cardiff Harris Museum & Art Gallery
BRIDGET RILEY CH CBE
Born London 1931
Born in London in 1931, Bridget Riley spent most of her childhood in Cornwall near Padstow in a cottage with her mother, aunt and younger sister, her father being away in the armed forces during the War. From 1946-48 she was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College, where she was introduced by her teacher Colin Hayes to the history of painting and encouraged to attend a local life class. Riley went on to study at Goldsmith’s College of Art from 1949-52 under Sam Rabin and then at the RCA from 1952-5 at the same time as Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake, Joe Tilson and John Bratby. A long period of unhappiness followed her graduation from the RCA as Riley nursed her father after a serious car accident and subsequently suffered a nervous breakdown. After a number of jobs she joined the J Walter Thompson advertising agency.
In 1959 Riley took part in a summer school in Suffolk organised by Harry Thubron, and met Maurice de Sausmarez, who became her friend and mentor, going on to write the first monograph of her work. On tour in Italy in the summer of 1960, Riley painted Pink Landscape, 1960, a key piece in her early development. Having broken with Sausmarez and suffered an artistic crisis, her attempts to create an entirely black painting produced her first black-and-white works. She held her first solo show 1962 at Gallery One, London and won the International Prize for painting at the 34th Venice Biennale in 1968, the first British contemporary painter and first woman ever to win.
The work of Bridget Riley is represented in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The British Council; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; the Berardo Collection; Sintra Museum of Modern Art, Lisbon; the Arts Council Collection Hayward Gallery, London; the Tate, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Neues Museum, Nurnberg; the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; the Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and the Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Kitasaku.
 See Frances Spalding, ‘Bridget Riley, Paintings 1982-1992. London, Hayward Gallery’, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 134, No. 1076, November 1992, p.739.
 Bridget Riley, ‘The Pleasures of Sight’ (1984), Robert Kudielka (ed), The Eye’s Mind: Bridget Riley Collected Writings 1965-1999, Thames and Hudson, London, 1999, p.30.
 ‘Into Colour’, Bridget Riley in conversation with Robert Kudielka (1978), cited in Robert Kudielka (ed), The Eye’s Mind: Bridget Riley Collected Writings 1965-1999, Thames and Hudson, London, 1999, p.104.