'For me nature is not landscape but the dynamism of visual forces - an event rather than an appearance. These forces can only be tackled by treating colour and form as ultimate identities' (Bridget Riley, 'Working with Nature', in Robert Kudielka (ed.), The Eye's Mind: Bridget Riley Collected Writings 1965-1999, London, 1973, p. 88).
In the mid-1980s Bridget Riley's work underwent a dramatic change with the reintroduction of the diagonal in the form of a sequence of parallelograms used to disrupt and animate the vertical stripes that had so strongly characterised her previous paintings. This rhythmic disruption of the sequence of coloured stripes reintroduced a sense of pictorial depth into Riley's wholly abstract and non-representational work in a way that hinted at representation without ever defining it.
Drawn from Riley's sense of the experience of the world as a dynamic 'event' defined by the forces of colour and form rather than as a definable or representational 'appearance', these new paintings hinted at the visual sensations prompted by the natural world. 'If I am outside in nature' Riley has said, 'I do not look for something or at things. I try to absorb sensations without censoring them, without identifying them. I want them to come out through the pores of my eyes, as it were - on a particular level of their own' (Bridget Riley, Bridget Riley, Dialogues on Art, 1995, pp. 79-80). It is this aspect of the visual sensation prompted by the phenomenal world of appearances that Riley expresses in Gaillard, a work from 1989, that is one of the first of this new style of paintings - a style that would persist until 1997.
Interspersed with black and white elements that disrupt and interfere with any sense of a cohesive pattern or surface, this painting exhibits a jazzy syncopated rhythm that flickers on many levels within the apparent pictorial depth of the picture. 'The colours' of such works, Riley has said, 'are organised on the canvas so that the eye can travel over the surface in a way parallel to the way it moves over nature. It should feel caressed and soothed, experience frictions and ruptures, glide and drift...One moment there will be nothing to look at and the next second the canvas suddenly seems to refill, to be crowded with visual events' (Bridget Riley 'The Pleasures of Sight', 1984, in The Eye's Mind, op cit, p. 33).