Conversation with Bridget Riley

The Eye's mind
The Eye's mind: Bridget Riley: collected writings
edited by Robert Kudielka
Publisher: Thames & Hudson, 1999.
ISBN: 0500281653 DDC: 709.2

"Mondrian is not at all interested in that type of expressive quality, in the Gestalt characteristics of his means, but very much in what is going on visually in his painting. This is a central aspect of his "realism". Whenever anyone puts some colours, some lines, some forms onto a flat surface, they look as though they were [sic] taking up different positions in space. All painters know this: it is always confusing and chaotic at first and has to be sorted out. There are weights, pressures tensions, all kinds of conflicting forces, and it is Mondrian´s great achievement that he tackled these head on. With his elements he built coherent visual realities, using pictorial forces and contrasts as an integral part of his order.

"In this respect, if one can put Abstraction as such on hold, Mondrian works in principle as any painter would who follows in Giotto´s footsteps. Giotto´s great contribution (so much venerated by by Matisse) was to build a painting as a place in its own right through the distinction of spaces, the massing of forms, the creating of areas of repose and friction. His depiction of humanist realities grew quite naturally out of his organisation of pictorial realities as the primary task. There are no rules for this sort of building: the forms of organisation can be as diverse as are those of Masaccio, Titian, Poussin, Rembrandt or Cezanne - as long as each pictorial world draws its power and conviction from having been built. " p.195

Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley: recent paintings and gouaches
[essay, Marla Prather; conversation, Lynne Cooke and Bridget Riley]
Publisher: New York City : PaceWildensten, c2007.
ISBN: 1930743807 LCC: ND497

In Conversation with Lynne Cooke

"Because my work is based on enquiry, studies are my chief method of exploration and my way into paintings. That is to say, when I start, i don´t have an aim or an image in mind for how the painting is going to look. I explore the potentail of an element, and then gradually several elements. As I moved on, I introduced colours, different forms of structures and so on. When I started to do studies at the beginning of the 1960s few other artists made preparatory works. Most people felt that they were not spontaneuos, or sufficiently informal; it was thought that any form of preparation was somehow a bit inartistic. But I just felt - I didn´t just feel, I knew from all the evidence of what was to be seen in museums - that drawing adn preparatory work has always played a large part in an artist´s practice. So, I persevered in various ways with whatever elements I was then studying." p. 16

"Klee saw [abstraction] as the true basis of picture making, as something that could be continued into figuration or develop itself as an art form." p.20

"The real purpose of painting now was to convey sensations. As making moved further and furthere away from trying to master external reality, it seemed to me an inevitable step to lay my own hands aside and ask someone to paint the work out. It didn´t need to be one particular person, it could be anybody, anybody whom I had trained to apply the paint without emphasis and with no trace of handling.

In England at that time there was a certain love of amateurism. Amateurism was seen to be part of the hallmark of sincerity. Being not commercial, it seemed to ensure a certain kind of purity. But along with that were things that were badly made, and generally ticky-tacky. I was not going to have what we thought of in England at that time as a piece of "fine art". And so I had considerable pleasure in making a hardboard panel, using household paint and even washing the painting with a little Ajax if it got dirty. That little rebellion against handling was one gesture alongside others I was making then.

Over the years my assistants have been extremely good; very tactful, understanding and capable. The thing that I chiefly ask of them is that they don´t tell me what they think: I don´t want their views. Being sensitive they know quite well that when one is in any kind of uncertainty, as one inevitably is when one is working, that one is extremely open to suggestion, and so one can be...not exactly misled...but one can find oneself responding to something that one actually doesn´t want to respond to. Their tolerance has been crucial. Also crucial is the fact that they help me establish distance. the way that I work means that I am, inevitably, my own spectator. Since the spectator who looks at my work is part of the work itself, it helps very greatly to be as objective as I possibly can. For me, distance can be established by just going into another studio, or by an interval of time, or by the detachment that results from not having painted out a big cartoon of myself.

Above all, the freedom that they make possible has made me sharpen my focus. By paring away so many of the little jobs, props and sidetracks, I was left with very, very stark facts. I was pushed into tight corners - which was demanding but good." p.17

Why did I think Riley´s work was all optical illusions?