It was during this time that Riley began to paint the black and white works for which she is best known today. They present a great variety of geometric forms that produce sensations of movement or colour. In the early 1960s, her works were said to induce sensations in viewers as varied as seasickness and sky diving. Works in this style comprised her first solo show in London in 1962 at Gallery One run by Victor Musgrave, as well as numerous subsequent shows. Visually, these works relate to many concerns of the period: a perceived need for audience participation (this relates them to the Happenings, for which the period is famous), challenges to the notion of the mind-body duality which led some people to experiment with hallucinogenic drugs (see Aldous Huxley's writings); concerns with a tension between a scientific future which might be very beneficial or might lead to a nuclear war; and fears about the loss of genuine individual experience in a Brave New World. In 1986 Riley met the postmodern painters Philip Taaffe and Ross Bleckner, and was inspired to introduce a diagonal element to her work.
Although remembered today mainly for the impressions of movement and colour they give through the exploitation of optical illusions, it is speculated that the impetus for Riley making these seemingly cold and calculated works was a failed love affair. One of the more famous works in this style is Fall (1963).
Following a major retrospective in the early 1970s, Riley began traveling extensively. After a trip to Egypt in the early 1980s, where she was inspired by colourful hieroglyphic decoration, Riley began to explore colour and contrast. In some works, lines of colour are used to created a shimmering effect, , while in other works, the canvas is filled with tessellating patterns. In 1986 Riley met the postmodern painters Philip Taaffe and Ross Bleckner, and was inspired to introduce a diagonal element to her work. Typical of these later colourful works is Shadow Play.
In many works since this period, Riley has employed others to paint the pieces, while she concentrates on the actual design of her work. The work Riley did was said to be a tribute to her father, and that her mental break down helped here to create some of her free flowing art that will forever be admired by many millions that appreciate what Bridget Riley has done for the world of art.
Riley made the following statement about the nature of artistic work, in her lecture 'Painting Now':
(NB. Riley is using 'text' here to mean not only written documents, but any phenomena subject to interpretation, such as experiences or perceptions)
From: 'Painting Now', 23rd William Townsend Memorial Lecture, given by Bridget Riley CBE at Slade School of Art, London, 29 November 1996, quoted in article 'A plea for Painting', by Michael Bracewell, The Guardian Weekend 15 March 1997
Optical Illusions of Grandeur; A Major Show of Works by Op Artist Bridget Riley Is Opening at the Walker Next Week. Laura Davis Reports
Sep 18, 2009; Byline: Laura Davis THE smallest observation can set Bridget Riley off on a train of thought that could ultimately end up as a...