A visit to a Bridget Riley exhibition is the closest thing to a "trip" a non-narcotic taker can experience. Boldly playing with illusion, Riley forces us to genuinely look at her paintings, and through looking they come to life, taking us on a journey we were not expecting.
Closest thing to a "trip" a non-narcotic taker can experience.
Large, imposing canvases draped in diagonal, horizontal and vertical lines stop you in your tracks. Some visitors to the exhibition struggle to even look at the more complex paintings, feeling lightheaded and slightly seasick. This is exactly what I love about Riley's style; she makes you feel uncomfortable, but also calm and comforted, and always on her terms.
There are ten rooms, divulging each aspect of her work from curves to black and white, stripes and diagonals and studes, each as compelling as the last. From the wall painting Rajasthan (2012), resembling flames billowing like a furnace, to the Tetris-type canvas From Here (1994) and Lagoon (1997) moving like ripples on water, the whole exhibition was other-wordly.
Some calming, others distressing, some sit in situ reverberate as if on repeat while others precipitate the destruction of themselves, which is equally exhillerating to see. Evident both in the earlier work and newer pieces, Riley constantly flirts with perception and allows us to question the messages our eyes absorb and understand. Riley has always understood the value of looking, and often, we don't stop to see what is right in front of us.
Alongside a room honouring the French artist, Georges Seurat, who was a great influence on Riley and a room featuring some of her earliest paintings - nudes, interiors, portraits - drawn while studying Fine Art at Goldsmiths University, give this exhibition the context it requires.
Held over two floors of the gallery, it was confusing to know which way to enter and exit, with many visitors lost at the beginning. A smoother transition from room to room would have made this "trip" an even more psychedelic experience.