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    Sale 13100

    Defining British Art Evening Sale

    30 June 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 5

    Bridget Riley, C.H. (b. 1931)

    Shift

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Bridget Riley, C.H. (b. 1931)
    Shift
    signed and dated 'Riley '63' (on the canvas overlap) and signed again, inscribed and dated again 'RILEY/1963. SHIFT.' (on the reverse)
    emulsion on canvas
    30 x 30 in. (76.2 x 76.2 cm.)


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    An entrancing arrangement of subtly shifting and starkly contrasting triangles, Bridget Riley’s Shift is the first example on canvas from the artist’s ground breaking series of black and white paintings that has come to elicit the zeitgeist of 1960s ‘Swinging London’. The acutely altering repetition found within Shift’s composition expertly demonstrates Riley’s sustained investigations into visual phenomena. Eschewing optical systems based on scientific theory, Riley’s iconic Op Art paintings focus on bold, yet systematic geometries. By designing images that destabilise perceptual experience she draws the viewer into a visual dialogue with the painting. 'I wanted the space between the picture plane and the spectator to be active,' she explained of her early paintings, and 'It was in that space, paradoxically, the painting 'took place’' (B. Riley, 'The Experience of Painting', in R. Kudielka (ed.), The Eye's Mind: Bridget Riley. Collected Writings 1965-1999, London, 1999, p. 122). While few others have so thoroughly engaged in the analysis of the sensations of vision as Riley has while exploring the parameters of abstract art, her arrestingly powerful compositions informed not only the art, but also the fashion and design of one of the most formidable generations in modern British culture - lending to the power of the British Invasion that resulted in the rise of counterculture on both sides of the Atlantic.


    Developing the idea of serial transformation, Shift emerged as the archetype of ‘point movement’ within Riley’s oeuvre, introducing the practice of continuously moving one variant point in a pattern of shapes. Art critic and historian Robert Kudielka described the schematics of the present work stating: ‘A regular vertical and horizontal register provides a constant proportion of width and height while the moving points of the triangles are established by a crossing diagonal … The points of the black triangles in the vertical compartments move progressively in one direction. The key-units for this organisation are the rectangular triangles. They can be seen along the top and the bottom of the painting, and they mark the turning-points within the structure. While the first change of movement drops steadily through the addition of one triangle each time, the return back into the original direction is increased by a ratio of two units. As a result, the centre passage opens out like the segment of a fan until it spans almost half the height of the painting. Conversely the long return movement is gradually reduced to a succinct clause in the bottom right corner, one right-angle against another’ (R. Kudielka, ‘Building Sensations: The Early Work of Bridget Riley,’ in L. Corrin, exhibition catalogue, Bridget Riley: Paintings from the 1960s and 70s, London, Serpentine Gallery, 1999, pp. 26-27).


    Through the extensive study of the optical discoveries of Neo-Impressionist painters like Georges Seurat and the energy and motion of the Italian Futurists, Riley had come to discover that sight works together with the mind to effect perception. Expanding on the perceptual theories that played a central role in post-war philosophical and artistic debate, Riley began to explore the way sensory perception controls our understanding of reality, and to challenge the reliability of our senses through the volatile nature of her abstract images. By founding her practice on these principles, and creating paintings in which kinesis is only manifested in the mind of the viewer, Riley effectively embraced an existential uncertainty, a condition she later aligned with the loss of an overarching belief system in modern society: 'In general, my paintings are multifocal. You can't call it unfocused space, but not being fixed to a single focus is very much of our time. It's something that seems to have come about in the last hundred years or so. Focusing isn't just an optical activity, it is also a mental one. I think this lack of a centre has something to do with the loss of certainties that Christianity had to offer. There was a time when meanings were focused and reality could be fixed; when that sort of belief disappeared, things became uncertain and open to interpretation. We can no longer hope as the Renaissance did that 'man is the measure of all things' (B. Riley quoted in L. Cooke, Bridget Riley: Reconnaissance, reproduced on http://www.diacenter.org).


    Indeed, it was this depth and intelligence that originally brought works such as Shift international acclaim. In 1965, a selection of Riley’s black and white paintings was included in the landmark exhibition, The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Cast under the leading light of a new art movement known as Op Art, Riley’s works hung alongside artists of varying practices, all of whom the curator William Seitz believed were creating works that ‘exist less as objects than as generators of perceptual responses’ - including Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland (J. Borgzinner, 'Op Art: Pictures That Attack the Eye', Time, 23 October 1964). Following the success of The Responsive Eye, Riley’s art, which appeared to resonate perfectly with the zeitgeist of the time, amassed a considerable amount of attention from all facets of popular culture - though often to the artist’s dismay. While the early 1960s was a time of cultural and social liberation, especially in London as the debate between Englishness and Britishness was born, Riley quickly discovered that the lack of copyright laws protecting artists from appropriation subjected her unique, yet highly marketable compositions to be adopted and adapted into popular culture. Her electric, innovative style seemed to reflect the atmosphere of emancipation and experimentation that also welcomed new rock bands - from The Beatles to The Who - alongside daring short hemlines in fashion, a new wave of cinema starring James Bond, and the corresponding relaxation of previously rigid social mores. Commenting on Riley’s role in this ‘revolution of youth’ Francis Follin has observed: ‘As an Op artist, Riley was part of ‘new Britain’ along with the Beatles, Mary Quant and David Frost, her art aligned with the urban, scientific, socially progressive face of a new, young national identity’ (F. Follin, Embodied Visions: Bridget Riley, Op Art and the Sixties, London, 2004, p. 120). While Riley felt this sudden commodification violated the integrity of her art, neither the visceral nor psychological responses stimulated by confronting the real thing could be subsumed, and in 1968 she was chosen to represent Britain in the Venice Biennale. It was there that the impact of her visual dynamic won her the International Prize for Painting, for which she became both the first living British painter and first female to achieve such distinction.

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


    Provenance

    with Victor Musgrave, London, where purchased by Dr & Mrs Robert J. Fusillo, Atlanta in August 1964.
    with Steven Leiber Gallery, San Francisco, where purchased by the present owner in 1987.


    Literature

    Studio International, vol. 175, June 1968, p. 297, illustrated.
    R. Kudielka (ed.), Bridget Riley Dialogues on Art, London, 1999, p. 38, illustrated.
    Exhibition catalogue, Bridget Riley Works 1961-1998, Kendal, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, 1998, p. 9, illustrated.
    Exhibition catalogue, Bridget Riley Flashback, London, Arts Council of Great Britain, 2009, p. 11, illustrated.
    E. Schmidt (ed.), exhibition catalogue, Bridget Riley: Painting 1980-2012, Siegen, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, 2012, p. 69, fig. 2.


    Exhibited

    Bochum, Städtische Kunstgalerie, Profile III Englische Kunst der Gegenwart, April - June 1964, no. 134, n.p., illustrated.
    London, The Arts Council of Great Britain, Hayward Gallery, Bridget Riley Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, July - September 1971, no. 17, n.p.
    Buffalo, British Council, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Bridget Riley: Works 1959-78, September - October 1978, no. 11: this exhibition travelled to Dallas, Museum of Fine Arts, October - November 1978; Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, July - August 1979; Perth, Art Gallery of Western Australia, September - October 1979; and Tokyo, National Museum of Modern Art, January - March 1980, pp. 16-17, 66, illustrated.
    Düsseldorf, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Bridget Riley: Selected Paintings 1961-1999, October 1999 - January 2000, exhibition not numbered, pp. 8-9, illustrated.
    London, Serpentine Gallery, Bridget Riley Paintings from the 1960s and 70s, June - August 1999, no. 6, pp. 56-57, 112, illustrated.
    London, Tate Gallery, Bridget Riley, June - September 2003, no. 5, pp. 34-35, illustrated.
    Aarau, British Council, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Bridget Riley: Bilder und Zeichnungen 1959-2005, September - November 2005, no. 10, pp. 62-63, illustrated.
    Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Bridget Riley Rétrospective, June - September 2008, no. 10, pp. 189, 298, illustrated.


    Post Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT EUROPEAN COLLECTION