South London Girls

I got stood up again for a visit to a gallery. My friend Steve had succumbed to a lurgy and was confined to bed. So for a second time this week I visited an exhibition alone, for the second time this week I enjoyed it immensely.

Bridget Riley

There were more coincidences. Reading the biog of Bridget Riley (it was her exhibition at the Hayward I went to today) I saw she was born in west Norwood. Quant was born in Blackheath. So they were both south London girls. Both received part of their art education at Goldsmiths, just three years apart.

That may not seem much of a story, but compared to the nonsense being bleated about a ‘crisis’ in the royal family with the Sussexes deciding to relocate and withdraw from public life, or the desire of some deranged few to mark Doomsday with the sound of Big Ben, it’s mega. I’m being more than a touch unfair about the royal story, but the one that the tabloids seem keen to deny is that they have kept up a relentless stream of negative stories about Meghan Markle all characterised by an unsavoury flavour of racism.

Anyway back to the art. Riley’s work is mesmerising, and makes my eyes go funny. It’s meticulous and cerebral, yet playful and perceptive.
I love this spiral, it seems to twirl and shimmer. It feels alive, changing, moving as you look. I forgot to take my camera, only had my ‘phone, and now I have reduced the size of the photo files, they’re not as sharp as I’d like.


Spiral: detail

How does an artist conceive of something like this? Fortunately we got a little insight.

Spiral plan

I wasn’t the only adult listening while one of the gallery staff worked with a group of primary school children.


They had evidently had a session somewhere behind the scenes, and played with cut outs, making the repetitive patterns for which Riley is famed.

From cut out to paint

Now they were starting to experiment with lines, filling squared paper as they sat on the gallery floor. Riley uses squared paper too, as each painting is carefully planned.


There was more than one painting I could happily live with had I the room and the money, but I was fascinated by the part of the exhibition that gave us insights into her methods and the trajectory of her work.

My favourite

Four canvases

There were figurative paintings and drawings from her early Goldsmith days. She has always acknowledged the importance and influence of work by other artists to her own work, and there was one painting which seemed more than a nod to Patrick Caulfield. But it was the influence of Seurat, the way he used dots in his work, creating waves of colour, that had been the driving force that led to the works we are familiar with today.

The path established

Learning from Seurat

This exhibition ends next week, go if you can. More details here.


13 thoughts on “South London Girls

  1. Yes it’s a great show I visited it before Christmas I too liked the preparatory works and sketches even more than the finished works which made my eyes go all funny too!

    • It is seeing a little of the process that I love. When I look at the finished works, I wonder how on earth she gets there. Also, to see the move from figurative through studying Seurat to her own instantly recognisable work.

  2. How capturing her works are!!! And how neat!!! I love her precission and clarity!!!
    Thank you for your pictures of them, Isobel!!!

    • Again, I think if you go to the website you will see more. Her work is in museums and galleries around the world, so you may find some closer to home that you can see for yourself.

  3. I have been enjoying the many Bridget Riley’s works on her website.
    It’s been a fascinating experience!!!
    Thank you again, Isobel!!!

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