One of the most significant living artists in the world, Riley's work has radically explored the active role of perception in art, using the interrelationship between line and colour to convey movement and light within the pictorial field.
A study (executed by Riley) for one of Riley’s 1980s oils (nearly always painted by her team) and one showing her new and brighter colouration at its very best together with a subtle sense of movement, drawing upon her 1960s works.
Since the mid-1960s, she has been celebrated for her distinctive, optically vibrant paintings which actively engage the viewer’s sensations and perceptions, producing visual experiences that are complex and challenging, subtle and arresting. Her influences include Klee and Seurat and some have speculated that, rather than an Op Art artist, she is the last living Post-Impressionist.
Riley’s subject matter is restricted to a simple vocabulary of colours and abstract shapes. These form her starting point and from them she develops formal progressions, colour relationships and repetitive structures. She manipulates her surfaces through subtle changes in hue, weight, rhythm and density. The effect is to generate sensations of movement, light and space: visual experiences which also have a strong emotional resonance.
Riley travelled in Egypt in the winter of 1979-80. During that trip she visited the Nile Valley and the museum at Cairo, studying at first hand the ancient burial sites and temples of Egypt. Riley was enthralled by the consistency of palette used by the Egyptians to paint their gods, temples, to decorate their furniture and adorn their jewellery and pottery. The brilliance of this palette of red, yellow, turquoise, green, black and white was further enhanced by the Mediterranean light and appealed deeply to her.
The stripe, a more neutral form, offered the longest edge and, hence, the optimum choice to align different colours `side-by-side' to achieve Riley's quest for optical resonance. Each of Riley's 'Egyptian' colours retains its individual brilliance and tonal value, whilst simultaneously interacting with the colours immediately adjacent to it, in order to generate an increased level of light. Furthermore, colour interactions could now take place right across the sheet.
Riley’s exhibitions include: Museum of Modern Art, New York (with US tour), 1966; Venice Biennale, British Pavilion (with Phillip King), 1968, at which she won the International Prize for Painting (the first woman ever to achieve this); Kunstverein, Hanover, 1970; Hayward Gallery, London, 1971; National Gallery, Prague, 1971; Hayward Gallery and Kunsthalle, Nuremberg, 1992; Tate Gallery, 1993; Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, 1995; Serpentine Gallery, 2000; Tate Britain, 2003; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2004; Rétrospective, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris,2008; and National Gallery, London, 2010.
Provenance: Private collection, Munich.