Movement in Squares

1961

Riley, Bridget
  • Artwork Details: 123.2 x 121.2cm
  • Edition:
  • Material description: tempera on hardboard
  • Credit line: Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. © 2016 Bridget Riley. All rights reserved. Courtesy Karsten Schubert, London
  • Theme: Abstract
  • Medium: Painting
  • Accession number: ACC6/1962

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About the Artist

Bridget Riley creates dizzying abstract paintings, which generate sensations of movement, light and space. A key figure in the development of 'Op art', which used a framework of purely geometric forms as the basis for its effects, she is one of the most distinguished and world-renowned artists working in Britain today.

Early in her career it is said that Riley confessed to feeling a great sense of frustration over what it meant to be a modern painter. Inspired by the optical effects of the works of the 19th-century pointillist Georges Seurat, she began her investigation of non-figurative painting in the 1950s.

Her seminal work Movement in Squares was acquired by the Arts Council Collection in 1962, the year after it was made. Here, Riley has found her style, signifying her breakthrough into abstraction. We can see the beginnings of her interest in visual disruption and disorientation. The artist initially pondered ‘is there anything to be found in a square?’

After sketching the design in one sitting and colouring alternate black squares, she was elated by what she saw: “...as I drew, things began to change. Quite suddenly something was happening down there on the paper that I had not anticipated. I continued, I went on drawing; I pushed ahead, both intuitively and consciously.

The squares began to lose their original form.” The simple unit morphs across the canvas and slowly disappears into a void, as though it is being pulled from below.

Twelve rows of alternating black and white squares, their height remaining the same but their width slowly diminishing, develop into an optical illusion. In the present day Riley’s black and white paintings are some of her most famous, still visually striking in the way they are choreographed.

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