I was aware of Bridget's op-art work in black and white from the sixties, which having a mathematical background I found quite fascinating.
Movement in Squares, 1961
The paintings in Kettle's Yard are selected from the past thirty years up to very recent work and are big and colourful. I saw the exhibition when it opened but if I'm honest, I didn't understand it and felt somewhat indifferent which annoyed me. Here I was standing in front of what was generally acclaimed to be great art and I didn't "get it". So when an opportunity arose to attend an evening talk with Bridget Riley in conversation with Paul Moorhouse, art curator at the National Portrait gallery, it seemed too good to miss.
Last night I went to St. John's College, Cambridge and listened to this amazingly vivacious 80 year old talk about her work... and I'm so pleased that I did.
She spoke about her childhood in Cornwall and the love of nature instilled in her by her mother. About how her mother would make her really look at the colour, shape and movement of everything around her. She spoke about her early days in art school and the strong grounding she had in life drawing and how the tonal drawings she would make then went on to inform those early black and white paintings.
Another strong influence on her colour paintings was the work of Seurat. A study of Cezanne gave her a desire to dig deeper and explore colour and pictorial space further. Her work is filled with movement and rhythm.
Two Reds, 2000
And armed with this greater understanding of how Bridget Riley works, knowing where her influences have come from, I find I have a greater appreciation. Aesthetically they might not be my first choice of paintings to look at but I now feel I can take something away from the experience of looking at them... and so I intend to go back to the exhibition in Kettles Yard, which has been extended to the end of December and take a closer look.
Rose Rose 5, 2009
As I work through my MA over the next couple of years I think I might be doing a lot more looking and appreciating of things I didn't understand before.