27 February 2011

Bridget Riley in London

Just off Trafalgar Square are two opportunities to see works from early and late in the career of Bridget Riley. She became well-known in the 1960s for her distinctive black and white (and later multicoloured) abstracts with marked optical effects – Op Art. Riley will be 80 in April and is still an active artist, as is Susan Hiller -a mere 70 - currently at Tate Britain. Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work at the National Gallery focuses on recent paintings, including two made directly on to the walls of the exhibition space. At the artist’s request, a selection of paintings from the Gallery’s collection are displayed which explain the relationship between her pictures and historical figurative work.

The small but free exhibition has been sponsored by Bloomberg, and quite possibly their support extended to the Catalogue. This is excellent value at £9.99 and expands considerably on the theme of the exhibition. The images of Riley’s Set Fair and Matisse’s Dance II (pages 37 and 38) seem particularly to make the point. The exhibition runs to 22 May.

Older Woman Looking Down
Bridget Riley, c.1950
Around the corner at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), until 20 March and also free, is a display of early life drawings, Bridget Riley: From Life. This was the area of her  training at Goldsmiths’ College. Perhaps fancifully, to me these seem to reveal an exploration of linearity even in addressing representation of the human face.

Nearby is a display, Camden Town and Beyond, of key portraits by leading members of the Camden Town Group, (Gore, Sickert) . It also explores the subsequent development of British post-impressionism in portraits by Augustus John and Mark Gertler. The display continues to 31 August.

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