One of the most significant artists working today, Bridget Riley's dedication to the interaction of form and color has led to a continued exploration of perception. From the early 1960s, she has used elementary shapes such as lines, circles, curves, and squares to create visual experiences that actively engage the viewer, at times triggering optical sensations of vibration and movement. Her earliest black-and-white compositions offer impressions of several other pigments, while ensuing, multi-chromatic works present color as an active component. Although abstract, her practice is closely linked with nature, which she understands to be "the dynamism of visual forces—an event rather than an appearance."
Riley was born in 1931 in London, where she attended Goldsmiths College from 1949 to 1952 and the Royal College of Art from 1952 to 1955.
Riley’s first solo exhibitions were held at Gallery One, London in 1962 and 1963, followed by two exhibitions at Robert Fraser Gallery, London, in 1966 and 1967. She was also at that time included in numerous group exhibitions such as Towards Art?, Royal College of Art London (1962); The New Generation, Whitechapel Gallery, London (1964); and Painting and Sculpture of a Decade 1954–1964, Tate Gallery, London (1964). In 1965, her work was included in the now-seminal group exhibition The Responsive Eye, organized by William Seitz at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1968, she represented Great Britain at the 34th Venice Biennale (along with Philip King), where she was the first living British painter to win the prestigious International Prize for Painting. Her first retrospective, covering the period 1961-1970, opened at the Hanover Kunstverein in 1971, and subsequently traveled to Kunsthalle Bern, Kunstahlle Düsseldorf, Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, Turin, and the Hayward Gallery, London.
More recent solo exhibitions include Bridget Riley: Paintings from the 1960s to the Present at Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art, Sakura, Japan (2018); Bridget Riley: Cosmos at Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand (2017); Bridget Riley: Venice and Beyond, Paintings 1967-1972 at Graves Gallery, Museum Sheffield, England (2016); Bridget Riley - The Curve Paintings 1961-2014 at De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea, England (2015; traveled to Gemeentemuseum, The Hague); Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat at The Courtauld Gallery in London (2015); and Bridget Riley (2014-2015). Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work (2010-2011) was on view at the Sunley Room at the National Gallery, London. Also in London in 2010, the National Portrait Gallery presented Bridget Riley: From Life, an exhibition of Riley's little-known sketches drawn from life. Other recent international museum shows include Bridget Riley: Flashback, which first went on view at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in 2009; Bridget Riley: Rétrospective at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2008; Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1961-2004 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney in 2004-2005; Bridget Riley: New Work at the Museum Haus Esters and Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Krefeld, Germany in 2002; and Bridget Riley: Reconnaissance at the Dia Center for the Arts, New York from 2000-2001.
A major solo exhibition of Riley's work was on view at the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, in 2019 and is currently at the Hayward Gallery, London (on view through January 26, 2020). In January 2019, a new large-scale wall painting by Riley entitled Messengers was unveiled at the National Gallery in London. Another of the artist’s wall paintings is currently on view at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas through 2019.
Riley joined David Zwirner in 2014, and the gallery's inaugural exhibition of her work, Bridget Riley: The Stripe Paintings 1961-2014, was held in London that year. In 2015, a career spanning survey was presented at the gallery in New York, and in 2018, the London gallery presented Riley’s recent works from the last four years.
In 1974, Riley was named a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) and in 1999, appointed the Companion of Honour. In 2003, the artist was awarded the Praemium Imperiale in Tokyo. She received the Kaiser Ring of the City of Goslar, Germany in 2009 and the Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen, Germany in 2012.
Work by the artist is included in museum collections worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Arts Council, U.K.; British Council, U.K.; Dia Art Foundation, New York; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Kunstmuseum Bern; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen, Germany; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Tate Gallery, London. Riley lives and works in London.