I had an interesting afternoon at Southampton City Art Gallery taking in the Bridget Riley exhibition, Bridget Riley: Flashback. The show covers work from the early 60s up to more or less present day and includes some of her preparatory studies. These, many of which were plotted out on graph paper, took me right back to my to my student days at art school when most of my images were created using mathematical systems. Whereas the other students could be seen carrying sketchbooks, I was usually brandishing a pad of graph paper. Very different from the kind of work I’m making now.
There was a selection of books on Riley for browsing at the exhibition; ten or twelve with her customary op art images on the front. I was immediately drawn to the one with a conte sketch of a woman on the front. It seems that Riley was an ardent portrtaitist and spent her three years at Goldsmiths drawing, drawing, drawing from life. Although her work changed direction dramatically in the early 60s when she began to produce the sort of images she is so well known for, this early experience of looking and drawing has been crucial to the way she has worked throughout her career.
'A great deal is involuntary. At best the drawing seems to unfold on the paper almost by itself, the hand being directly guided by the eye. Drawing is an exercise in looking: one finds out what can being seen and at the same time one finds oneself having to organise the visual and emotional information extracted. How to sort out and clarify this confusing wealth?'
Bridget Riley, From Life
Cataract 3, 1967