Bridget Riley | Artist
"Bridget Riley is a consistent innovator in her field who experiments constantly with new ideas that mark new departures. For this reason nobody can truly know what the future will bring in terms of her original and unique art, which is demanding both of herself and of those who see them."
New York at Pace 2007
Last weekend I travelled to London to see the Bridget Riley Exhibition at the National Gallery. The work is a stunning delight but what struck me more was the fact that the National Gallery had given Bridget two walls to paint on, not to hang her works on but to actually paint on. It was like wonderful graffiti that should remain in the Gallery for as long as the paint would last. It made so much sense that here is an artist that is really in the fabric of the Nation. The best of the best of England. Her work is remarkable and can be seen as a dance as much as a visual Christmas feast. What made the exhibition for me was the writing. Bridget is so wonderfully eloquent and speaks with such authority about her work and art in general, giving away all her secrets and sharing with all of us her marvellous optical illusions. To be placed at the National Gallery is quite extraordinary and it's not until you see the exhibition do you realise what a bold move the Gallery has taken to highlight such a worthy artist. Amongst Raphael, Holbein, Bellini and the Titians is Bridget Riley; the Gallery heralding that her work is as timeless as the Masters of the past. This significance should not be under estimated. What an enormous accolade placed on a living artist! This is a first for the Gallery and what a brilliant use of the space and the social positioning the Gallery holds for the Nation. Celebrating, not the YBA's, but Bridget Riley as the most important artist of Goldsmiths Art College in New Cross.
I know of no other living artist who has been given so much space in such an important position in London. The National Gallery is situated in the pulse of high culture in Trafalgar Square; the Royal Opera House and National Theatre are only stone throws away. The National is full of Renaissance and Dutch Masters of the past and usually so removed from the Modern. It is the most important place in the entire city and so why did they do this? Was it to shift the attention away from the East End and back to the core of the city? The National is giving a knee-jerk reaction to the Royal Academy appointing Tracy Emin as a Member, maybe? Regardless, the Exhibition is a triumph in so many ways. Bridget, is methodical and a consistent artist, with a BBC World Service British accent and her videos in the Exhibition reminds us of childhood or of a time gone by. Personally, I grew up with Playschool and Jackonary and the Exhibition sent me straight back to the 1970's; to an England best described as happy and harmless. Where Media wasn't so powerful and controlling. No CCTV and without our 'Bill of Rights' and Terrorists threats in every newspaper repeated every single day. To a time when we made do with making spaceships out of used loo-paper rolls, finger paints and potato prints. In my opinion the National Gallery ceased on an opportunity to celebrate greatness, originality and true artistic flare. If art is politics, then this is an interesting development within the British Art scene. A counter balance to the Saatchi effect and a true celebration of British talent.
Bridget seems to understand the British more than any other artists of her generation; she understands that we are more literal than visual. In her explanations of her works and the elements she expresses so clearly and brilliantly the Nation can see where her inspiration comes from. Combining the old with the new we see her works and the works of the Great Masters coming together flawlessly and in so doing, she enables all of us to understand the process of making art, and giving us a far broader vision of art in general. She generously includes us all in her work and almost reinvents our National treasures. Through this Exhibition she has made the Nation take another look, a closer look at the works hanging so comfortably in our sacred Gallery and we can now see them anew. This Exhibition is far more than just works from a British Artist, it is a statement from the heart of our Capital City.