Bridget Riley: Flashback at the Walker

Bridget Riley with her painting at Walker Art Gallery. Photo: Minako Jackson Red With Red 1, 2007 Collection of the artist © 2009 Bridget Riley. All rights reserved
Bridget Riley with her painting at Walker Art Gallery. Photo: Minako Jackson Red With Red 1, 2007 Collection of the artist © 2009 Bridget Riley. All rights reserved

Bridget Riley: Flashback is the first in a major new series of touring exhibitions from the Arts Council collection, Southbank Centre, London. The Arts Council have been purchasing works for many years and so have built up a large collection, its great that the public will be able to see more of them. Especially if they’re all as good as these. It is also fitting that the exhibition tour starts at the Walker as she won a prize in the John Moores painting prize here in 1963.

Taking as its starting point the Collection’s founding principle of supporting emerging artists through the purchase of their work; the series showcases world-renowned British artists whose works were acquired early on by the Collection. Each monographic exhibition combines early Collection works with new pieces sourced from the artists, giving a unique insight into the evolution of these key figures in British art.

Movement in Squares, 1961 Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © 2009 Bridget Riley. All rights reserved
Movement in Squares, 1961 Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © 2009 Bridget Riley. All rights reserved

This exhibition tracks the career of Bridget Riley, from her exciting beginnings in the early 1960s to the ambitious and powerful works of recent years. Many of these will be exhibited for the first time. Eight large scale paintings are on show, with four coming from Riley’s personal collection.

A seminal work in the show is Movement in Squares, which was purchased by the Arts Council collection in 1962, the year after it was made. Consistently exhibited in retrospectives of her work, she credits the work as the beginning of her breakthrough into abstraction. This shows an insight into the role of the Arts Council collection in supporting British artists and collecting the art treasures of the future.

Alongside these are around 30 drawings and studies that illuminate her working methods over her five-decade-long-career.

Collage study, revision of 15th December, 1993 Collection of the artist © 2009 Bridget Riley. All rights reserved
Collage study, revision of 15th December, 1993 Collection of the artist © 2009 Bridget Riley. All rights reserved

Riley’s studies for her paintings reveal the meticulous precision with which each work evolves out of a succession of minutely plotted technical drawings, often made on finely ruled graph paper. It is not possible from these to know exactly how the finished work will look, there is some trial and error invovled. Years of experience help the process but then she likes to change her methods so that nothing is too predictable, the joy of discovery and surpise are important.

This should be a very popular show, Riley has a lot of admirers especially amongst fellow artists. Don’t miss it.
Bridget Riley: Flashback at The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
25 September – 13 December 2009

A video clip of Bridget Riley in her studio in 1979 can be viewed from The Walker Art Gallery website

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