Light, color and vision
Color interactions: Simultaneous contrast
Peripheral vision
Luminance and equiluminance
Related pages: Modern art and vision  ·  Bridget Riley    « »
    Bridget Riley and op art


"White Disks," 1964, Bridget Riley. She wrote that "...the uncertainties of a drawn structure increase when it is composed of similar, repeated elements. Because small and compacted these elements begin to fuse while they are easy to separate when the are big."


Bridget Riley is one of Britain’s best-known artists, celebrated since the mid-1960s for her distinctive, optically vibrant paintings, called "Op Art." She exploits optical phenomena so that a work appears to flicker, pulsate or move. Very popular in the 1960s, her vibrant black-and-white optical pattern paintings became almost a hallmark of the period. In the painting at at left, as your look around, your eye is continually seeing momentary afterimages (white dots) that appear in the middle of the black dots... causing the slight flickering effect.


Bridget Riley analyzing color combinations.

Riley painted and extended Seurat’s color wheel and copied his Bridge of Courbevoie to learn more about his technique of complementary colors. Soon after, in 1966, Riley began to use colour to achieve her optical effects. By juxtaposing lines of complementary pure colours she could affect the perceived brightness of the individual colours.

She works in a meticulous way, carefully mixing her colors to achieve the exact hue and intensity desired. Color interaction is generally explored in small gouache color studies, moving on to full-size paper-ad-gouache designs (as in the photo at right). The large-scale canvases are then marked up and painted entirely by hand — first in acrylics, then in oil.

"Dominance Portfolio, Blue," Bridget Riley, 1977.


She is interested in visual effects, commenting:

‘the eye can travel over the surface in a way parallel to the way it moves over nature. It should feel caressed and soothed, experience frictions and ruptures, glide and drift…One moment there will be nothing to look at and the next second the canvas seems to refill, to be crowded with visual events.’

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