Posts Tagged ‘Bridget Riley’

Books | The Op-Art of the Invisible

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Singular Point

Poemotion 2
Takahiro Kurashima
Designed by Takahiro Kurashima
Lars Müller Publishers / 2013
64 pp / 30 images / hardback
170 x 230 mm / 6 3/4 x 9 ins
ISBN 978-3-03778-351-1
English text

Red Square

When this beautiful, finely-crafted little book arrived we thought ‘Yes, isn’t it nice,’ but we’ve been looking at op-art since Josef Albers started playing around with it at the Bauhaus, closely followed by Victor Vasarely. In the 1960s and 70s Bridget Riley’s mind-bending compositions made us woozy and weak at the knees. So what’s so special about these images?

Covers of Poemotion 1 and Poemotion 2

Had we seen Japanese advertising art director Takahiro Kurashima’s black and white bestselling Poemotion 1, prequal to the all colour Poemotion 2, we would immediately have realised that something was missing. As it happened, the all important sheet of etched black film – required to make the images interactive – that must be laid over the graphic abstract patterns to create the moiré effects that set them wildly spinning and vibrating, was accidently left out of the package.


Penrose Triangle

For all its small proportions and lightness of touch, the concept of Poemotion 2 is based in philosophy. Kurashima quotes Galileo, who in 1623 wrote: ‘The universe cannot be read until we have learned the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language. The letters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures, without which it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word.’ The design of the book is both minimal and warm, which makes it feel very much of the moment, but Kurashima was strongly influenced by Hans Knuckel and Jurg Nanni’s Seesaw (1994), also produced by Swiss masters of the modern book, Lars Müller Publishers, which he says taught him about the sense of invisibility.

All images © 2014 Takahiro Kurashima & Lars Müller Publishers

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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Book | The Sensational Bridget Riley

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Bridget Riley: The Stripe Paintings, 1961-2012
Texts by John Elderfield, Paul Moorhouse
and Robert Kudielka
Published by Ridinghouse in association with
Holzwarth Publications and Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
Hardback, 86pp

When the opportunity came up of my reviewing the book/exhibition catalogue Bridget Riley: The Stripe Paintings, 1961-2012, I had to think twice about it. While I loved the black and white stuff she did in the 1960s, I’d never cared much for her coloured paintings. Happening upon her giant wall drawing Composition with Circles 7, especially created for the longest wall of the Sunley Room at London’s National Gallery in November, 2010, I was pleased at what I hoped was her triumphant return to black and white. I made several return visits to wonder at the work’s overwhelming calm simplicity and strength. However, opening the website for Berlin’s Galerie Max Hetzler – where the work shown in the book is being exhibited until July 18th – for which the paintings have been photographed in situe on the white gallery walls – I became excited. It looked great! There was a delay before the book arrived, and I remember emailing the publisher, concerned, asking if it was on its way – packages sent to my address, have a habit of going astray. An intern had forgotten to send it.

As if to signify the gravitas of the work they contain, the covers of art books can be understated, rather sombre, sometimes dull. This one, brightly striped with horizontal bands of greens, oranges, yellows, blues and pinks (a detail of Burnished Rose, 2012) is cheerful, inviting, inclusive. Even if it didn’t have BRIDGET RILEY in bright yellow embossed into it – oddly, off-centred – it wouldn’t be too difficult to guess whose work is inside. The end papers are bright orange, backed with egg yolk yellow on the side facing the half-title, which sports cooler, mid-grey type. This being a joint production, published by Ridinghouse in collaboration with Holzwarth Publications and Galerie Max Hetzler, the introductory pages (as well as the notes, etc, at the back) appear first in German, then in English, sparingly illustrated with just a few black and white photographs of the artist. The first, a sensitive (2012) image of Riley, at 81, looking far fitter, younger, even trendier than might be expected of a woman of her age, is followed by a contact sheet sheet from 1961, in which she is seen in various poses – relaxed, comfortable, sometimes smiling, in front of the camera – at her London studio, standing between and in front of two works completed the same year, Movement in Squares and Horizontal Vibration. A shot of her, taken around the time the painting was completed, blurred to suggest movement and vibration – the effect her works have on the retina – shows the artist against, and to an extent merging into The Morely College Mural, 1973, which fills the entire background.

I haven’t read her writings, but towards the end of his introduction, John Elderfield quotes Riley as saying, ‘I work from nature, although in completely different terms…’ a statement she had gone on to clarify with, ‘… it’s the recognition of the sensation without the actual incident which prompted it.’ And, perhaps in explanation of her approach, that is all that needed to be said. More pragmatic than Elderfield – and without lecturing us – in his essay, Paul Moorehouse informs us that, as early as the mid-1960s it was clear that looking at a black and white work by Riley entailed being responsive on several levels – visually, perceptually and emotionally, and that conscious of having reached this stage, she had felt ready to explore colour. the writer describes the genesis of the stripe paintings and Riley’s recurrent preoccupation with the stripe format which, despite her explorations in other directions – triangles, zigzags, discs, ovals and curves – has endured for more than fifty years. By virtue of his close observation of the development of different formations of stripes and colours in Riley’s paintings, and their varying effects on the way the eye sees them – and subsequently the brain perceives them – Moorehouse provides us with an enlightening and indispensable guide to the artist’s intentions, explorations and power to astonish.

The selected works, 14 in all, including some studies and finished pieces in pencil and gouache on paper, fall roughly two-thirds of the way through the book. Many of them are horizontal in format and, to take advantage of the possibilities of scale afforded by the book’s 30 x 24 cm size, break across the gutter, thereby disturbing and distorting the strict linear pattern of the stripes. To avoid this problem and to demonstrate greater sensitivity to the paintings, had I been asked to design this book, I might have recommended a landscape format.

Completing the neat, slim-volume package, Robert Kudielka’s chronology of Bridget Riley’s life and oeuvre, reads like a compact biography, supplying a wealth of concise detail, and putting her works into clear historical context.

Chant 2, 1967, Bridget Riley
Emulsion on linen

Lux, 2011, Bridget Riley
Oil on linen

Images ©Bridget Riley, 2013. All rights reserved
Courtesy Karsten Schubert, London

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The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Auction | Modern & Post-War British Art

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Modern & Post-War British Art

Sotheby’s, London. Evening Sale, 15th November, 2011

Exhausted. Broke. Britain, after Hitler’s war was a barren and desolate landscape. But while the rest of Europe rapidly recovered, rebuilding both their shattered cities and economies, Britain lagged behind, its population having to endure food rationing – that had begun in 1940 – until 1954. The country’s economy never really got going again until the latter half of the 1980s. It might be surprising and seem ironic then that a group of paintings, drawings and sculpture representative of the prodigious output by British artists from the post-war years, together with others from the 21-year inter-war period – itself dogged by unemployment and poverty, and hit hard by the 1929 Wall Street Crash – are expected to reach a combined total of £7.2 – 10.8 m ($11.9 – 17.3m) in this forthcoming auction at Sotheby’s, London.

Born in 1878 – well before WWI during which he was a war artist – master-draughtsman, Augustus John’s, David at the Table portrays the somewhat idealised image of a haggard though handsome, wild-eyed young man in work clothes sat slumped at a plain table on which one senses there is no food and might not have been for some time. Generally considered to be the most famous British artist of his day, John himself was never short of money or commissions, however he cultivated a bohemian image inspired by his admiration for the lifestyle of gypsies. Perhaps the bluntness of Laurence Stephen Lowry’s painting, The Cripples (Political Argument) executed shortly after WWII comes closer to reality. Along with other Lowry’s it is also included in the sale.

Bridget Riley, born to middle-class London parents in 1931, would have been eight years old when war broke out in 1939. Raised in the relative safety of the west country, she was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College before coming up to London to study at Goldsmiths then at The Royal College of Art. Her signature, disorientating Op Art painting style matured at the beginning of the 60s with which it and she became synonymous. At a time when the younger generation, anxious to escape the dullness and squalor of the 1950s, living in the shadow of the Cold War and of the possibility of a nuclear holocaust, experimented with hallucinogenic drugs, these paintings were said to inspire audience participation. Becoming disillusioned when her style was exploited for commercial purposes, Riley abandoned it in favour of pursuing ideas concerned with colour, in so doing backing away from the limelight. She was fifty-one when she painted the strikingly linear Praise 1 at the dawn of the 80s.

The same age as Riley, Frank Auerbach, whose gaunt work, Head of Gerda Boehm, among others is also included in the sale, was born of Jewish parentage in Berlin. Sent to England in 1939 to escape Nazism, his mother and father remained behind and perished in concentration camps. Young Frank was evacuated to Shropshire but ended up attending London’s St Martin’s School of Art and going on to the RCA, where he and Bridget Riley were contemporaries.

Painter, William Roberts, started out as a poster designer and studied at the Slade; leaving the school in 1913 he travelled in France and Italy and fought in the trenches during WWI, the sheer horror of the experience, as with many other artists who went to fight, significantly changing the direction of his work. Roberts was one of the signatories to the first issue of BLAST, the short-lived literary magazine of the Vorticist movement in Britain. He developed an interest for representing and interpreting the predominantly working class elements of metropolitan London’s everyday life and events – visits to the cinema, the dancehall but treating them with dignity and humour. Roberts’ painting:s The Boxing Match, produced between 1919-25 and The Barber’s Shop, circa 1946, along with Bath Night, 1929, are all in this sale.In contrast, Barbara Hepworth’s Mincarlo: Three Curves with Strings, created in 1971, only four years before the sculptor’s death and, although small in size – only 16.5 cm high, excluding black, polished stone base – is unashamedly extravagant and luxurious in use of materials.

Hepworth, from Wakefield in Yorkshire was born in 1903 to middle class parents and died in 1975; her adulthood spans much of the scope of this sale. Aged 17, not long after the Great War ended, she went to Leeds School of Art before being accepted at the RCA, soon becoming well-connected to the up-and-coming art cognescenti including sculptors Henry Moore and John Skeaping. Marrying the latter, the couple regularly exhibited together to great acclaim but drifted apart and separated in 1931. Soon after Hepworth met Ben Nicholson whom she was later to marry and to form a long-standing creative relationship with in which together they moved into abstraction. Both artists benefited enormously from forging links to the continental avant gardists – Picasso, Mondrian, Brancusi – and from those artists who fled Europe and came to England prior to WWII – Gabo, Walter Gropius, Moholy-Nagy. When the war began Hepworth and Nicholson relocated to St Ives in Cornwall where they continued to work and succeeded in their efforts to attract international attention. In the 50s, after divorcing Nicholson, Hepworth confirmed her reputation as one of Britain’s major artists producing two sculptures for 1951’s Festival of Britain and retrospective shows in Wakefield and at London’s Whitechapel. Both the 50s and 60s were good to her; Hepworth’s international stature grew. She was awarded the CBE and later, the DBE. She had a further retrospective in 1962 at the Whitechapel, became a trustee of the Tate and had a retrospective exhibition there in 1968. Barbara Hepworth died in St Ives in 1975 – her studio and garden there are now a museum administered by the Tate – after a long battle with cancer. Celebrating her achievement and named in her honour, 2011 saw the opening of the Hepworth Wakefield gallery in her home town.

Sold earlier this year through Christies and significantly surpassing its estimated sale price of £70,000 – £100,000, ($112,980 – $161,400) selling at £145,000 ($236,612), the Mincarlo: Three Curves with Strings, sculpture is of 18 carat gold (Apparently, the best gold you can get for making precious objects, 22 carat is too soft). Deep in the current world recession, apparently far worse than that of the 30s and in post WWII Britain, and as gold prices head towards $5,000 (£3,127) an ounce, curiously in Sotheby’s Modern & Post-war British Art sale the estimated price for this piece exactly matches the earlier Christie’s estimate.

Works from top
Bridget Riley, Praise 1, circa 1981. Estimate £150,000-250,000
Augustus John OM, RA, David at the Table. Estimate £20,000-30,00
Dame Barbara Hepworth, Mincarlo: Three Curves with Strings, 1971.
Estimate £70,000-100,000
Frank Auerbach, Head of Gerda Boehm, 1971. Estimate £180,000-250,000
William Roberts RA, The Barber’s Shop, circa 1946. Estimate, £70,000-100,000

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Printing Money

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

The 25th London Original Print Fair
The Royal Academy of Arts, London. 29th April – 23rd May

I felt sorry for the girl in her twenties leaning against a table, staring into space, in front of a white wall full of bright prints by an artist I’d never heard of, whose work I would never wish to own. She had a chair to sit on but I sensed she had already done a lot of sitting and had stood up to break the boredom with a change of perspective. It was the first day of the show and I hoped that for her sake things might pick up.

Much like the atmosphere in their often-busy book illustrations, the adjacent booth buzzed with Jean and Laurent de Brunoff’s Babar the Elephant fans. Elsewhere, not giving much away – every so often, though there expressions never changed, they mumbled quietly to one another – a well-dressed, elderly couple tottered from one booth to the next of the sixty seven crammed into the Academy’s main galleries. Whether they were more excited by Sean Sculley’s blocky abstracts, the dark Goya aquatints or by Allen Jones’ erotic editions was difficult to say.

Agents – the male ones – almost to the man, sported that Euro-look; dark blazer worn over a sky blue formal shirt, unbuttoned at the neck, with once-washed, dry-cleaned, dark denims, ironed but not creased, and brown slip-on leather shoes, probably from Bally or Gucci. Tanned, too, of course, they had well-coiffed hair – close-cut at the sides and back, quiffy at the front – sometimes with just a hint of blonde streaking. Incessantly talking loudly into their Blackberrys, now in English, then in German or French or perhaps Russian, it was difficult to guess at their origin. Exceptions were the two or three obviously English dandies, one in a cream linen suit and dark green shirt worn with a black tie, whose longish dark hair was swept straight back to reveal a good deal of forehead, whose booth was decorated with a big, square glass vase filled with the most exquisite, orange tulips.

Afraid they might already have missed the Matisse they saw earlier and weren’t sure about whether it would go with the drawing room carpet a rather plain, middle-aged couple darted quickly from one stall to the next. People all around me were actually buying Goyas, Picassos, Hockneys, Bridget Rileys and Kitajs. Arriving with the intention of whizzing around in about twenty minutes, I stayed almost an hour and a half, wandering around making the occasional note in my catalogue; I’m sure I was taken for a dealer. If I could have afforded anything it would have been one of Julian Opie’s 3D Lenticular prints, View of Mount Fuji with daisies from Route 300, 2009.

Did anyone visit the print fair? Please post a comment

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