Bridget Riley on Active Observation

April 15, 2020

“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 seems to refill, to be crowded with visual events.” -Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley was part of the Op Art movement with decorative abstract paintings, but her understanding of viewer perception applies to all styles of painting. The way our eyes move across the canvas is very similar to the way they move across a natural landscape. Great paintings move your eye around the painting, giving you places to pause and busier moments of interest. The experience of viewing involves time and inquiry, starting with the initial impact of the whole scene, leading into an examination of smaller moments. 

Some canvases pulse with so much information that with each viewing we see something new. As with the people and places we experience every day, a painting becomes more complex and interesting the more time we give to it. There is great reward in allowing the time and inquiry to let your eye explore. 

Here is a selection of paintings from four artists that invite a longer viewing:

Jessica Lee Ives, Inhale Light, oil on panel, 8x10"

Peggi Kroll Roberts, Simple Shadow Series 5, gouache on paper, 8x11"

Colin Page, Crab Cookout, oil on canvas, 36x48"

David Graeme Baker, Saturday Morning, oil on linen mounted on panel, 13.5x20.25"

Related posts:

Alex Katz on Painting Your Own Backyard
Neighbors by T. Allen Lawson
Wolf Kahn on Painting Nature

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