Born in South London in 1931, Bridget Riley’s practice extends across painting and printmaking in which she explores perception, colour relationships, and the way in which we see. Riley began her technical training at Goldsmith’s College in 1949, later enrolling at the Royal College of Art in 1955.
Early in her career, Riley was profoundly affected by the work of Jackson Pollock whose Abstract Expressionist canvases she viewed at an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1958, and Georges Seurat. Struggling with her artistic identity, Riley considered giving up art altogether until she painted The Kiss, 1961, a reductive composition showing two black forms on the verge of ‘kissing’. In that moment, Riley established her artistic identity, founding an ordered, non-figurative visual language that utilises optical and perspectival effects to convey nature, emotion and human sensation. Riley’s earliest works in the 1960s remained monochromatic, before she started exploring the effects of colour in various formats: ‘stripes’ (1967-73), ‘curves’ (1974-80), ‘fragments’ (1988-92). Riley continues to revisit these formats in different iterations, simultaneously producing a comprehensive body of graphic work.
Riley was included in the 1965 exhibition, The Responsive Eye, at MoMA, New York, and later became the first female artist to represent Great Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1968, also becoming the first woman to win the International Prize for Painting. Riley was the subject of major retrospectives at Tate Britain in 2003 and most recently at the Hayward Gallery in 2019. One of Riley’s earliest black-and-white works, Untitled (Diagonal Curve), 1966, holds the current auction record of her work, which stands at £4.34 million.