Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward

art, bridget riley, colour, exhibition, hayward gallery, line, London, optical illusions, painting, visit

Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand EmbroideryOn Thursday we were lucky enough to visit the eagerly anticipated exhibition of Bridget Riley’s most comprehensive body of work (spanning an incredible 70 years), on display at the Haywood Gallery

It was quite a unique experience in the way that the concept behind the paintings made you really think about the theory behind colour, art is about looking; and this exhibition really brings that to your attention. It was also unique in the physical way that the paintings made your eyes and brain hurt – (but in a good way of course!)

The following images are from my favorite series of works:

 

Stripes and Diagonals. “At the core of colour is a paradox. It is simultaneously one thing and several things – you can never see colour by itself, it is always affected by other colours.” (Bridget Riley, 2009).

Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand EmbroideryBridget Riley, Chant 2, 1967

Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand Embroidery

Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand Embroidery

Finding that colour is unstable and tangible, Riley used stripes and to bring about powerful colour interactions – pairing or grouping colours along horizontal or vertical stripes, mixing and creating an illusion of hues. 

This was one of my favorite series as the work is simple, in the form of perfect clean lines of pigment, but the mixture of colours really make your eyes work and see colours that aren’t there. It isn’t until you go close up to the painting that you can really see what colours the paintings really possess. 

 

Curves “When colours are twisted along the rise and fall of a curve their juxtapositions change continually” (Bridget Riley, 2009).

 

Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand Embroidery

This series really made my head go in a spin – I think that even from the photos that I took, you can see the illusion of the waves moving and swirling. It is amazing to think that the paint is static, yet with the application of line and colour, there is so much movement.

Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand Embroidery Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand EmbroideryBridget Riley, Drift 2, 1966

 

Studies “The working process is one of discovery and it is worth remembering that the word discovery implies an uncovering of that which is hidden.” (Bridgit Riley, 2019). – I love this quote – it complies the meaning of creative experimentation perfectly.Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand Embroidery Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand Embroidery
I found this part of the exhibition fascinating as it showed us the ideas and some of the mathematical and theoretical workings behind the pieces. They were in themselves, very much pieces of art – intricately applied and thought out. It also made you really appreciate just how much thought and time goes into creating the final pieces of work. 

Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand Embroidery

Riley produces full-scale preparatory drawings, from which studio assistants under her assistance complete the final work. This gives her the time to solely work on the theory and studies behind the paintings.  

 

Black-and-White “The basis of my paintings is this: that in each of them a particular situation is stated. Certain elements within that situation remain constant. Others precipitate the destruction of themselves by themselves.”(Bridget Riley, 1965).

Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand EmbroideryHawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand EmbroideryBridget Riley, Fall, 1963

Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand EmbroideryBridget Riley, Blaze 1, 1962

Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand Embroidery

Even with the absolute basic level – simply black and white paint, the illusion is arguably even stronger. Maybe it’s the contrast or the simplicity that draws it back in but it was an amazing way to end the exhibition. 

Hawthorne & Heaney visits Bridget Riley at the Hayward London Hand Embroidery

Overall I was really impressed by the exhibition, I thought it was well laid out and portrayed a real story. The surroundings didn’t take away from the paintings but added something to them – they really made you focus in on the work and allowed space for reflection.

 

“The eye roams and the brain roams with it. You think you get it, and then you don’t”. 

(Guardian, 2019)

 

The exhibition is on until 26th Jan 2020 and I highly recommend a visit if you get the chance.