The Creator Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley describes her own position in these terms:
“For the last fifty years, it has been my belief that as a modern artist you should make a contribution to the art of your time, if only a small one. When I was young, the situation was very different. Abstract painting hung like a mirage in the desert. The door had been pushed open by a small number of visionary artists—mainly Mondrian, Kandinsky, Malevich, Rodchenko. Although traveling by different routes, each had arrived at what was virtually a common core. Having discarded the figure and nature, what remained? Colour as colour itself, those simple shapes and forms that geometry and writing provided, and the material facts.”
An heroic enterprise, to create out of nothing, or almost nothing. Riley has certainly acquitted herself well in this effort. I admire the position, but believe that it is left over from idealism, and religion. The artists she mentions may have been atheists, but the desire to make a mark on the universe in the act of decoupling from nature is still, on a deep level, a protest against natural death. The idea that the human being has an essence that is unconditioned and independent of natural processes is not necessarily wrong, but I strongly doubt that such a thing can survive the death of the body. In the event, Riley’s work converges with nature, or mimics it, or is a parallel nature. Kandinsky and Mondrian developed out of landscape, and never really escaped it. Kandinsky ended up with a macro/microcosm, a view through a telescope or microscope, and Mondrian ended up with the human landscape of architecture and design. Riley also is a landscapist, rendering light and air. But the relative success or failure of the project is not as important as what it stands for, namely human freedom from nature and natural death, ultimately a delusion, but a grand one. I love the work and respect the effort, but I think it’s a fallacy. My work is not to represent nature but to be it, and death is built into the method.

Bridget Riley, Nataraja 1993

Bridget Riley, Nataraja 1993

This entry was posted in Abstraction and Society, Early Abstraction, Ethics of Abstraction, Principles of Abstraction and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *