Introduction to HE: Reflection on The Course

It has taken me quite a long time to complete the Introduction to HE course: a) because I made lots of notes initially (see my folder of reference notes shown in photographs below); and b) because I had to wait for a chance to do my primary research for the related assignment (research into the work of Bridget Riley), and wait for a book that I had ordered to arrive at the library.


In retrospect, I think I could have achieved a similar outcome by printing out the course and highlighting the important key words instead of writing out some of it and highlighting that. I used post-it notes to make it easy to find specific sections of the course, such as ‘Research’, which is proving useful for refreshing my memory on certain points. I used yellow highlighter for key words, and green highlighter for noting useful actions that I would be taking, which does make it quite a good reminder, as I can skim the page and pick out the important aspects.

I made a couple of checklists such as the ‘Learning Log Checklist’ shown above, to summarise what I had learned.

I watched videos about other student’s work and experience of studying, carrying out the assignments and researching, which all gave useful pointers, for example, on how to present work for assessment.

The section on ‘Planning Studies’ has helped me to focus on what I am aiming to achieve; the tasks involved; prioritising and organising tasks, and adding them to a time-table.

The ‘Smarter Reading’ techniques certainly saved me some time by getting me to focus on the information that I required, rather than reading at random and getting sidetracked. I decided on the areas I wanted to find out more about before I started my Bridget Riley research. The use of a mind-map and key words helped with that task.

I need to practise more at succinct note-taking, and have printed off some A4 sheets with sections for reference source, notes, key ideas, my summary and connections to my own work, which should help with that in future research and note taking.

Having started the first assignment of Textiles 1: A Textiles Vocabulary, I feel that the Introductory Course has given me a good grounding for carrying out the various parts of the assignment:- such as summarising the learning outcomes and activities involved, carrying out relevant research and reflecting on how that research could impact on my own work; the actions I need to take to complete the assignment and how to record and reflect on my learning.

I am glad that I took the time to go through the Introductory Course thoroughly and will use it as a reference and reminder in the future.

Introduction To HE: Research Trail Assignment: Self-Evaluation Summary

Research Methodology

The OCA resources section was a good place to start my research and led to images on the Tate’s website. I used a meta search to find references to useful books and articles on the subject, along with a search at my nearest city library (Carlisle).  The BBC archive supplied a documentary on Bridget Riley, which had excerpts of the artist speaking about her own work. My primary research at an exhibition of her work in Edinburgh allowed me to contemplate Riley’s paintings in real life (somewhat more impactful than the reproductions found in books), and experience some of the effects and techniques she uses, that I had read about in the articles and books. I took numerous photographs of her work, and made two small sketches exploring the structure of her paintings, and spent some time feeling the sensations that resulted from viewing them.

The primary research was therefore invaluable, but it was useful to have a background of information from reading books by experts and critics beforehand, as I was then able to focus on specific aspects of the work (for example, their effect upon the viewer). The least useful items were from older publications (which could not take into account the whole body of Riley’s work); and commercial websites that were aimed at selling merchandise. Obtaining several perspectives on her work was also useful, as themes became apparent (such as her constant analysis of other artist’s work). I had trouble obtaining books from the library, only one of eight listed (on Bridget Riley) was available, although I managed to order a second book from another library. I may end up having to buy some key texts in future, rather than trying to borrow them. This was an unexpected pit fall that I overcame by studying some more general books on art, and searching for online versions of articles.

My Bibliography and list of websites are here.

Summary of Learning

I felt that I learned a lot from my research into Bridget Riley, her working methods, and by trying to understand her art. I feel that she evokes sensations of recognition in the viewer by producing simplified, distillations of reality, using repeated variations, lines, shapes, patterns and energy. The ‘interruptions’ of unexpected vertical and horizontal lines slow and direct the viewer’s gaze.

Her process illustrated a prime example of someone using the ‘Virtuous Learning Cycle’ that I had recently read about in the Introduction to HE course. She analyses the work of what she considers to be ‘the best’ artists; observes closely, (for example, deriving colour schemes from her travels); and experiments with this new knowledge in respect to her own art work.

What Can I Learn From This Artist?

This research has underlined for me, the importance of analysing the work of artists that I admire, of keeping a good sketchbook for recording my day to day observations; for experimentation based on new ideas; and for thinking reflectively about how new learning can improve and develop my own art work.

An Introduction To HE: Research Trail Assignment: Bridget Riley

  1. Biographical Information

Bridget Riley was born in London in 1931. She spent her childhood in Cornwall. She studied life drawing as a student at Goldsmith’s College London, under Sam Rabin. He introduced her to the principles of pictorial abstraction.

Riley made a copy of George Seurat’s The Bridge at Courbevoie, in 1959 (reproduction courtesy of shown at left below). Soon after, she experimented with a similar Pointillism in her own painting, Pink Landscape, 1960 (reproduction* shown below at right) which evoked the sensation she had experienced when initially viewing the scene, rather than concentrating on the actual colours in the landscape.

In the 1960s she developed a body of black and white abstract paintings, which were exhibited in The Responsive Eye exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965. Her work further evolved in the late 1960s to included sequenced greys, and in 1970-71, she introduced colour to her work. Further notable developments included the inclusion of curved forms in her work between 1974-78; diagonals and lozenge shapes in 1986-91; rhomboidal forms in 1997. Riley started to make black and white wall drawings around this time, where the wall forms an integral part of the design. Curves with vertical divisions appeared in her work in 2004.

Throughout her life, Riley has travelled widely (Japan, India, Egypt etc), has lectured, thought and written about her art, and researched and analysed the work of other artists. All new experiences and knowledge have been analysed and reflected upon and some have been incorporated into her work, fueling its development.

I think it is important to consider how her early influences, learning and practice influenced her work and its evolution.

  1. Op Art Movement

Op Art emerged from the Abstract Expressionist movement after World War II. Abstract Expressionism was practiced by artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, using gestural mark making, involving the body movement of the person making the artwork.

The term was first used in the 1950s about artist, Victor Vasarely’s art works, which feature geometrical shapes and optical illusion effects. It was later used in a ‘Time’ magazine article in 1964. The term itself has been described as more of a marketing term invented by journalists to sell newspapers. It was derived from Pop-Art (without the P) equals Op-Art – also meaning optical art.

The art works use a technique which requires the viewer’s participation (by looking at and experiencing the effects produced by the art) to create sensations in the body.

Many of the artworks including those of Riley were imitated and copied for commercial products such as fashion clothing and accessories. Riley felt that this devalued her art, fearing that it would be treated as a ‘here today-gone tomorrow’ trend.

I think that Riley did not want to be pigeon-holed as part of this movement, (although she initially was), because her art work was more than just a gimmick or fashion.

  1. Science versus Art Debate

At the time of the Op Art Movement, some critics dismissed the art works as optical illusions that merely illustrated scientific principles, and therefore, they felt, had no intellectual content.

Riley’s art does make use of interactions between colours, contrasts and optical mixing (where separate units are blended into a whole image by the brain) and ‘dual visual awareness’ (the viewer swaps between regarding the whole painting, and the patterns formed by individual units within the composition), but I feel that there is a great deal more to her work, as is evidenced by her influences and experimentation leading to the development of her work over time.

  1. Influences and Inspirations

Riley studied figure drawing at the colleges she attended.  This practice involves careful observation, information gathering and conversion of that visual and emotional information into marks made onto a two-dimensional surface.

She copied and studied works by ‘Old Masters’ such as Rubens and Titan to follow their thought patterns and intentions. Works by Seurat, Cézanne and Mondrian also influenced her method of structuring and composing art.

The abstracted shapes, patterns, balance and colours of such artists find echoes in Riley’s distilled and simplified vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines, colours and shapes, repeated with variations in her art works.

  1. Bridget Riley’s Process

Throughout my reading and research for this artist, I have been struck by how thoroughly she investigates the work of other artists and tries to understand their work by analysing their intentions, the balance, flow and structure of their paintings (for example, in discussing Paul Cezanne’s Tall Trees at the Jas de Bouffan c.1883, she decided that the painting appealed to her because of the strong diagonals and opposing vertical lines of the tree trunks. (My diagram at bottom right attempts to illustrate this structure.)

Riley Notes 6_0001

I feel that the results of such careful analysis can be seen in her own works, such as Vespertino, 1988 (A small image of which can be found at the link provided, or view the real thing in Edinburgh**).

From the 1980s Riley has made a number of collage studies for her paintings, showing variations of composition, such as this Collage Study, Bassacs, Further revision of June 11, 2005.

Riley Notes 7_0002

This allows her to try out different configurations to find out what works best, prior to working on the final painting.

She uses assistants to help in the production of the artworks, working according to her instructions, using colours mixed by her.

  1. Development of Bridget Riley’s Work

As discussed in Sections 1 and 4, Riley’s work has evolved and developed over the years. She seems to take inspirations from artists and their art work, travel, and her own analysis, reflections and subsequent learning as ‘grist to her mill’.

The links to her art works below, and postcard images from The National Galleries Scotland, show some of the stages through which her work has evolved. The simple black & white ‘optical illusions’ of the 1960s, with introductions of greys adding another layer of variation and depth. The colour and diagonal lines of Rattle, making the eye rush in one direction than in another, with an almost three-dimensional feel in places. The introduction of curves, lozenge shapes and verticals (eg as seen in the collage above) manipulate the speed and direction of the viewer’s gaze and the sensations evoked. With works such as Clair Obscur, Riley seems to have simplified her works again with a return to black and white, yet maintaining the complexity that the curves and variations of shape bring to the viewer’s experience of the work.

Fall, 1963

Deny II, 1967

Bridget Riley Rattle 1973

Rattle, 1973, Acrylic on linen, 153.3 x 381.3 cm

Bridget Riley Clair Obscure 2015

Clair Obscur, 2015, Acrylic on AP polyester support, 153.3 x 381.3 cm

This example of a virtuous learning cycle (Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle of doing/experiencing -> reviewing/reflecting -> concluding/learning -> experimenting -> and so on – as discussed in the OCA’s Introduction to HE course) seems to be at the heart of Riley’s artistic career. She analyses and learns from artists and experiences; and experiments to see how she can incorporate this new layer of learning into her own practice. As a result her art work express a structure, balance, flow, pattern and movement that evokes recognition and resonance in the eyes of the viewer.



Crow, Thomas “The Rise of the Sixties” Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1996

Follin, Frances “Embodied Visions: Bridget Riley, Op Art and The Sixties” Thames & Hudson, London 2004

Hornung, David “Colour: A Workshop For Artists and Designers” 2nd Edition. Laurence King Publishing Ltd, London 2012

Kerrigan, Michael “The World’s Greatest Art: Modern Art” Flame Tree Publishing, London 2005

* Wiggins, Colin; Bracewell, Michael; Prather, Marla “Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work” National Gallery Company, London 2010


** Bridget Riley: Paintings, 1963 – 2015 at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

15 April 2016 – 16 April 2017 (visited on 4 June 2016)


Riggs, Terry “Bridget Riley: Artist Biography” 1998

Tate Gallery

Newspaper Articles/Documentaries:-

Buck, Louisa with Wiggins, Colin “Shimmer & Dazzle: Seeing What Bridget Riley Sees” BBC Radio 4 Extra, Just Radio Production (listened to on 31/05/16 via BBC i-Player).

Sooke, Alastair “Bridget Riley: Learning From Seurat, Courtauld, Review: ‘A Rare Insight Into An Artist’s Mind'”

Research notes for this article can be found here and here.

An Introduction To HE: Research Trail Assignment: Notes, etc, 2

Some images from my primary research at the Bridget Riley Paintings, 1963 – 2015 at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. (I visited on 4 June 2016).

Bridget Riley Clair Obscure 2015

Postcard image of Bridget Riley’s Clair Obscur, 2015 (notes below).Bridget Riley Pink Landscape

Image of Riley’s first step towards abstraction, following her study of George Seurat’s art and methodology. Aiming to achieve an equivalent sensation to viewing the scene, without recourse to traditional colour schemes or imagery. Image from Wiggins, Colin et al “Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work” Published By National Gallery Company, London 2010.Bridget Riley Rattle 1973Postcard of Bridget Riley’s Rattle, 1973 (notes below)

Exhibition Visit Sketch 1

Notes on Bridget Riley’s Vespertino, 1988 An image of the painting can be found on the National Gallery’s website.Exhibition Visit Sketch 2IMG_20160604_160744252IMG_20160604_160754512

Notes and sketch of Rattle, photograph of painting and photograph of detail showing pencil lines of construction, careful placement of contrasting diagonal lines of red bordered by green and separated by white; and red bordered by blue paint, separated by lines of the white canvas showing through.


Photograph of Bridget Riley’s Clair Obscur, 2015 (please see notes below).

Riley Notes

Below are notes made on the book:-

Wiggins, Colin; Bracewell, Michael; and Prather, Marla “Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work” Published By National Gallery Company, London 2010.

Riley Notes 2Riley Notes 3Riley Notes 4Riley Notes 5

An Introduction To HE: Research Trail Assignment: Notes, etc, 1

Some initial key words to search for: looks rather blank at the moment!

Bridget Riley Mind Map 1

This is the page of notes I made as a checklist for starting research.

How To Research Notes

The areas I am interested in researching in particular are:-

Riley’s inspirations

The Op-Art Movement

Her process for producing art works

Her body of work – range and development – including some key artworks

Riley Books Carlisle LibraryRiley ExhibitionRiley Mind Map 2Riley Notes on Bio T RiggsRiley Sooke Review

Definition of ‘Pointillism’:- “technique of neo-impressionist painting using tiny dots of various pure colours, which become blended in the viewer’s eye. It was developed by Seurat with the aim of producing a greater degree of luminosity and brilliance of colour”. Source:- Google search for meaning of pointillism

Riley Sooke Review 2

I decided to see which, if any, colour theory might apply to Riley’s paintings and consulted David Hornung’s book “Colour: A workshop For Artists and Designers”.

Riley colour theory + notesRiley colour theory + notes 2Riley colour theory + notes 3

Riley Carlisle Library Research 1Riley Carlisle Library Research 2Riley Carlisle Library Research 3Riley Carlisle Library Research 4Riley Carlisle Library Research 5Riley Louisa Buck BBC Documentary 2Riley Louisa Buck BBC DocumentaryRiley mind map 3Riley process imageSeurat Bridge at Courbevoie

Thoughts on the day’s research: disappointed that the library didn’t have more books available on the subject (just one). The most helpful source was the BBC documentary, which had some excerpts of Bridget Riley herself speaking about her influences and inspirations. Hoping to find out more from the exhibition on Saturday, when I will be doing my primary research. The more general art books were of no or little use. The hardest thing is trying to focus in on the questions you want to find the answers to, so good to start the research with those in mind. There is so much information even in one book that it is easy to go off at a tangent. I am particularly interested in Riley’s inspirations, process, the reason for making her artworks; and to learn something about Op Art.

An Introduction To HE: Research Trail Assignment

I understand that by completing this task satisfactorily I will be able to show competence in the techniques covered in the Introductory Course. I will summarise the findings of my research, and write a short evaluation reflecting on my work and the experience of producing that work.

My learning log will be used to collate and evaluate my research. The completed work and development of that work will be presented on the learning log. Finally, I will reflect on the process of studying the whole induction course.

I will choose a topic or person from the 20th century that I am interested in to investigate. The research must be taken from two or more books, two or more journals/magazines, one reputable website and a set of notes made from primary research in a gallery or museum.


Well, I had a false start yesterday, after deciding to research Louise Bourgeois, I made a mind map of key areas, researched keywords using the ‘graball’ meta search website, and spent a couple of hours researching books/articles that I might be able to use, quotations by the artist, images of her work using the OCA’s online resources section, and the best website to use as my ‘reputable website source’, only to find that I would not be able to carry out the primary research aspect of the task, as none of her artworks are currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in Edinburgh (I am going to Edinburgh for a study visit on Saturday, so had hoped to combine the research with the visit).

The research will be kept for future use and reference, and I will look out for the next time her work is exhibited nearby, to complete the primary research aspect.

After thinking it over, I have decided to start again, but check that I can do the primary research before deciding which artist to research. I will try and find any books I need at Carlisle Library, which is my nearest city library, when it reopens after the Bank Holiday.