Bridget Riley, Arcadia I (Wallpainting), 2007 © 2012 Bridget Riley / courtesy Karsten Schubert, London
The artist Bridget Riley, who was born in London in 1931, is one of the most distinguished female painters of our time. On July 1, 2012 she will be honored for her life′s oeuvre with the City of Siegen′s Rubens Prize. The award is presented every five years to a painter living in Europe in honor of his or her lifetime′s artistic accomplishment. On this occasion, the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen is honoring Bridget Riley with an exhibition.
Bridget Riley herself conceptualized the exhibition (July 1 to November 11, 2012) in the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, which will feature work groups from 1980 on. In these groups of works, various strategies of lining up and intertwining stripes, rhomboid and curved figures, but also circles are presented. Riley has chosen a special form of presentation. By positioning juxtapositions of two or three pictures in a total of 12 museum rooms she intensifies the effects of color and shape through comparison. The result is an exciting and invigorating visual experience. The exhibition will also include two wall-sized paintings and a drawing encompassing an entire wall.
12th Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen
"The pleasures of sight have one characteristic in common - they take you by surprise. They are sudden, swift and unexpected." (Bridget Riley)
For over fifty years Bridget Riley has dedicated herself to painting without compromise and with high precision. As early as the 1960s her radical artistic position - classified back then as Op Art - gained international attention. She achieved her artistic breakthrough with her participation in the exhibition "The Responsive Eye" in the Museum of Modern Art (New York 1965). During this time she created paintings in black, white, and grey displaying shimmering and vibrating picture structures constructed out of simple shapes. The viewer of these works is bestowed with a multitude of cognitive experiences, surprising impressions of light and movement are immediately experiencable. Light rays appear to be running over the picture surface, picture zones seem to be physically moving, stretching, rising, or lowering themselves.
In 1967 Bridget Riley began changing her picture language and started to use color. Since then she has fully turned to exploring color and its relation to light. She began composing pictures that seem to shift, growing out of abstract color fields and evoking new sensations during the act of seeing: The rhythmically placed lines, arches, or diamonds cause the picture surface to undulate. Stripes melt away into the distance, unfolding their own individual coloration upon closer inspection. Neighboring colors encroach and cause new color lights to appear. Next to the impression of movement, the specific composition of colors and shapes also conveys the impression of volume or three-dimensionality. Additionally, the colors and shapes change their form of expression depending on the viewer′s point of view.
The mostly large-format pieces have a long gestation period. At first Bridget Riley tests the effect certain compositions have in studies. When the drawings develop the desired result, they are enlarged using Gouache. If a piece continues to convince, it will finally find its way onto canvas as a finished painting using self-made colors. Other studies are, from their inception, conceived as wall-spanning works and are completed immediately in the room. From the beginning to the end, each work takes many months and requires a very high degree of accuracy.
From the time of her earliest work, Bridget Riley has pursued her self-imposed goal of exploring painting by painting or analyzing painting in essays and conversations. She sees the roots of her painting in both observations of nature and in the analysis of historic examples of color painting. For instance, she gleans references from Poussin, Veronese, and Tizian, but also from modern French painters such as Seurat, Cézanne, or Matisse. Bridget Riley thus deals with the epic question of western art: How do we experience the world and how does this affect the way an image is created?
Bridget Riley is one of the most distinctive artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. She has been present numerous times at the documenta in Kassel and at the Biennale in Venice. In 1968 she received the International Award for Painting in Venice. In the year 1998 she joined the order "Companions of Honour". In 2003 she was decorated with the Praemium Imperiale and in 2009 with the Goslarer Kaiserring. This year the City of Siegen is honoring her with the Rubens Prize.
The City of Siegen′s Rubens Prize
The Rubens prize, which was founded in the year 1955, is one of the most renowned international art awards. The award is granted every five years to a painter or graphic artist who has contributed to the European artistic landscape in a fundamental way through his or her life′s oeuvre. The prize is reminiscent of the painter-diplomat Peter Paul Rubens, who gave fervent expression to the concept of European unity in his life′s work long before that concept could become a political reality. As the grand master of European Baroque painting Peter Paul Rubens - who was born in Siegen - set the artistic and European standards by which the prize awardees have been judged since 1957/58.
The Rubens Prize Laureates in the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen
Prior to Bridget Riley the Rubens Prize laureates have been: Hans Hartung (1957/1958), Giorgio Morandi (1962), Francis Bacon (1967), Antoni Tápies (1972), Fritz Winter (1977), Emil Schumacher (1982), Cy Twombly (1987), Rupprecht Geiger (1992), Lucian Freud (1997), Maria Lassnig (2002), and Sigmar Polke (2007).
The Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen houses important and comprehensive groups of works from each of the Rubens Prize laureates. Presently, the private Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection with its 200 pieces offers a good overview of each of the previous eleven Rubens Prize awardees′ creative work phases. Pieces by the new laureate will be integrated into the collection in the future.
Bridget Riley, 2011.
Photographer: Thomas Kellner.