Series 35. Olive added. Red and blue first two colour twist. Violet and green second two colour twist. Reverse diagonal.

Bridget Riley

'I don't paint light. I present a colour situation which releases light as you look at it.'

From 1974 until 1979, the fundamental unit of Bridget Riley's paintings was the curve. A broadening and a deepening of Riley's understanding of the relation of colour and light can be discerned in her curve paintings. The key to this is the role of the curve in creating a more pliable, less assertive structural armature so that occasionally the effect is as delicate as stained glass. This is also a structure in subtle movement. The eye follows the course of a curve and loses the thread as the shapes begin to fuse, dissolving like a rising haze of heat or undulating like ripples on the surface of water. These effects are non-descriptive yet tantalisingly evocative, recalling the patterns and rhythms of nature. They are also deeply expressive.

Before commencing the curves, Riley had observed: 'My paintings are, of course, concerned with generating visual sensations, but certainly not to the exclusion of emotion. One of my aims is that these two responses shall be experienced as one and the same.' The curve paintings include some of the most serene and emotionally radiant that she has ever painted, an implication that blossoms in the connotations of poetry and music contained in some of their titles. The paintings draw the eye into an intoxicating optical experience. The simultaneous contrast of adjacent colours, and the evocation of fugitive colours resulting from optical mixing, build cumulatively. They take the paintings within a hair's-breadth of their overall colour focus being lost. Yet always, within this dissolution, a sense of order remains.

Works such as Series 35 represent the end of a complex investigation into the vehicle of the twisted curve. Having taken the dissolution of colour to an extreme, the reinstatement of a firmer sense of structure now seemed necessary. In the very next year, 1980, Riley visited Cairo and the Nile Valley and began her so-called Egyptian period, reverting to the structure of the simple stripe.

Abridged from Paul Moorhouse's introductory text to Bridget Riley's Tate Gallery retrospective catalogue, 2000.

Bridget Riley (b.1931)
Series 35. Olive added. Red and blue first two colour twist. Violet and green second two colour twist. Reverse diagonal.
Gouache on paper
38 1⁄8 x 24 3⁄8 in : 96.8 x 62.0 cm
Framed size
42 ¼ x 28 ½ in : 107.3 x 72.5 cm
Signed and dated ‘Bridget Riley 1979’ lower right; Inscribed by the artist with the title 'Series 35. Olive added. Red and blue first two colour twist. Violet and green second two colour twist. Reverse diagonal' lower left
Karsten Schubert, London
Pace Wildenstein, New York
Private collection, acquired from the above
Sotheby's New York, their sale, 11 May 2006, lot 483
Private collection, France
Pace Wildenstein, New York, Bridget Riley, Paintings 1982-2000 and early works on paper, September-October 2000
Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Bridget Riley, Paintings and Works on Paper 1963-2005, September-October 2005
Hunter Dunbar, New York, 9th Street and Beyond: 70 Years of Women in Abstraction, Part 2: The Geometric , April 14 - May 25, 2022
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