Bridget Riley - Evening & Day Editions London Thursday, June 6, 2024 | Phillips
  • Bridget Riley’s Untitled (Oval Image) of 1964 depicts a spherical form comprised of ten undulating oval shapes of varying thickness that recede into a centralised focal point, hovering in liminal space. Demonstrating one of her first engagements with printmaking, Untitled (Oval Image) marks the start of the artist’s new exploration into printmaking. In a climate where artists left behind post-war austerity and instead embraced a plethora of new creative possibilities, printmaking for Riley symbolised a fresh new start. The artist exclaimed, “We were excited about trying new material – we all wanted the new!”


    Bridget Riley, 1964. Image: © The Lewinski Archive at Chatsworth. All Rights Reserved 2024 / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © Bridget Riley

    Untitled (Oval Image) was a commission by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, who pioneered printmaking in the 1960s, giving artists the green light to tear up old rulebooks. This new age coincided with a time when Riley began to receive critical attention for her monochrome works, predominantly focused on elementary shapes such as ovals, waves and horizontal lines to create flux and rhythm within the pictorial field. Her sole focus on black and white, eliminating any other distraction, allowed Riley to harness the full potential of the energy and vibrations between the opposing tones. This exploration and the structural compositions of Riley’s monochromatic works of the 1960s set an unmatched precedent for art engaging with ocular manipulation, laying a foundation for later works to follow.

    “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…”
    —Bridget Riley
    Despite never studying optics (as she has persistently reiterated), Riley has been closely associated with Op Art throughout her career. Pioneered by Victor Vasarely and Jesús Rafael Soto, the artistic movement leveraged geometric forms to create optical effects through rhythmic patterns, vibrating colour-combinations and distorting the binaries of fore- and background. Riley aligned with the ideology of Op Art proponents, not necessarily to motivate discussions around optical illusion but to instead explore the sensations derived from engaging with its visual effects. Following the German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz’s exploration into the psychological aspects of vision, Riley explored how the brain perceives visual information and deliberately employed repetition and patterns to challenge the brain’s way of “seeing”. Whether one becomes disorientated, dislocated, disarmed or delighted by Riley’s work, it cannot be denied that they are captivatingly all-consuming. As stated by the artist herself: “I want my works to exist on their own terms... resisting, in a well-behaved way, all attempts to be questioned, probed or stared at and then, for those with open eyes, serenely disclosing some intimations of the splendours to which pure sight alone has the key.”


    Untitled (Oval Image) is emblematic of Riley’s early investigations into vision that would go on to endure throughout her career. A deceptively complex work, the ovals are not simple circular shapes placed arbitrarily on the page. Instead, the alternating thickness and close proximity of lines at exact points in the circular flow create an effect of movement that plays tricks on the eye, disrupting the apparent simplicity of basic forms. The space between the spectator and the picture plane becomes active, promoting a visceral reaction in those who view the works. In this way, Riley’s works challenge the traditional notions of printmaking as a static, two dimensional medium, pushing the boundaries not only of what art can achieve but also the heights to which a female artist can rise. Competing within a notoriously male-dominated environment, Riley’s achievement is exemplified in her accumulation of accolades and reputational success throughout her career, carving a long-lasting legacy and path for female artists within contemporary art.

    • Provenance

      Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
      Private Collection, UK
      Gifted by the above to the present owner, 2010

    • Literature

      Karsten Schubert 3
      Alexandra Tommasini & Rosa Gubay 4

Property from a Private UK Collector


Untitled (Oval Image) (S. 3, T. & G. 4)

Screenprint in black, on wove paper, with full margins.
I. 50.8 x 10.2 cm (20 x 4 in.)
S. 76 x 35.4 cm (29 7/8 x 13 7/8 in.)

Signed, dated and numbered 28/50 in pencil (there were also 5 artist's proofs), printed by Kelpra Studio, London, published by The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (with their printed bylines recto), framed.

Full Cataloguing

£25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for £82,550

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 6 - 7 June 2024