“Let the hand be numb, but let the eye be agile, perspicacious, well learned.”
—Félix Fénéon on Georges Seurat
Comprising work made between 1960 and the present, ‘Bridget Riley: Painting Now’ surveys the development of Riley’s career-long exploration of looking and seeing in relation to the capacities of painting and picture making.
It has been written of Riley, famously, that “No painter, dead or alive, has ever made us more aware of our eyes than Bridget Riley” (Robert Melville, ‘New Statesman’ magazine, 1971). The truth of this pronouncement has been shared by generations of viewers internationally, for whom the experience of looking at Riley’s paintings has been visceral, compelling and enfolding.
The subtitle of this exhibition, ‘Painting Now’, is taken from that of Riley’s William Townsend Memorial Lecture, given at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, in 1996. In her lecture, Riley made a personal, generational and art-historical case for the tireless capacity of painting as a form of art, in the face of fashion or shifting ideas about its purpose or relevance, to be in a state of perpetual and inspirational renewal. “A lot of good paintings have been made in the belief that painting was in danger and had to be rescued, rediscovered or reinvented,” Riley stated, while explaining how the cause of painting, which can be one of meaning and spiritual uplift, has been advanced above all through a lineage of problem-solving.
‘Painting Now’ is dedicated to surveying Riley’s work and ideas in relation to both the historical role of painting and its place within the broader context of contemporary art and cultural discourse. As such, the overwhelming sensory power of Riley’s art, in terms of looking and seeing and feeling, doubles as an invitation to consider the intellectual, philosophical and spiritual questions or experiences that her work enables.
Michael Bracewell, September 2018
(taken from website)