Three Colours (Blue, Yellow and Turquoise) Precipitating Magenta, 1982 by Bridget Riley
Gouache on paper
114.9 x 85.7 cm
Signed, inscribed and dated
Juda Rowan Gallery, London.
Karsten Schubert, London.
Private collection, UK.
Three Colours (Blue, Yellow and Turquoise) Precipitating Magenta belongs to a collection of striped paintings that Bridget Riley produced between 1980 and 1985. The gouache maintains the palette and structure that Riley developed following a trip to Egypt during the winter of 1979-80; this marked a breakthrough for the artist signalling a new direction. It was sites such as the museum at Cairo and the ancient tombs at Luxor that inspired an Egyptian palette of powerful colours including blue, turquoise, yellow and red, whose brilliance necessitated a return to a simplified formal structure; the neutral stripe. The uniform precision of Riley’s decisive design and immaculate finish enables the uninterrupted interaction of colours and the fleeting visual sensations they create. Like a passage of music, Riley carefully composes colour chords across the canvas, punctuated by accents of black to establish the rhythm and white to provide a pause.
Paul Moorhouse suggests that paintings produced during this period evoke ‘analogies with music in the way that certain formal elements are drawn in to relationships which are variously stated, contrasted with other faster and slower passages, transformed and recapitulated.’ He goes on to explore Riley’s work from the 1980’s to the present and its emphasis on relationships between varying sensations: ‘The relation of colour stripes produces discrete areas of colour sensation which suggest a range of other qualities: from density and weight to dullness and brilliance; from closed impenetrability to open airy space; from advancing planes to shallow recession. The composition of the works is therefore additive in the musical sense of individual units being drawn into an experience that unfolds in time.’ After this pivotal trip to Egypt Riley abandoned the curve, which had been a formal vehicle within her compositions in previous years, and from 1980 to 1985 she instigated the return of a neutral stripe.
The importance of these paintings cannot be underestimated as they represent Riley’s embrace of sensation. Riley herself provided her own explanation on her new found engagement with sensation: ‘I was beginning to find my way with a whole host of sensations to do with colour. But to start from these as I have in my work since the early 1980s is quite a different thing. Sensations – visual sensations – defy attention, the moment they are focused upon they evaporate; they are extremely elusive things … If I am outside in nature, 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 in conversation with Andrew Graham-Dixon and Bryan Robertson). 
 Paul Moorhouse (ed.), Bridget Riley, Tate Publishing, London, 2003, p .22.
 Ibid., p.22.
 The artist cited in, Robert Kudielka (ed.), Bridget Riley, Dialogues On Art, Zwemmer and Phillip Wilson Limited, London, 1995, pp.79 – 85.
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