- Bridget Riley
- Entice 2
- signed, titled, dated 1974 and variously inscribed on the reverse
- acrylic on canvas
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
New York, Dia: Chelsea, Bridget Riley Reconnaissance, 2000-01, no. 6, detail illustrated on the catalogue cover
Robert Kudielka, Ed., Robert Kudielka on Bridget Riley: Essays and Interviews 1972-2003, London 2005, p. 195, illustrated in colour
"I saw that the basis of colour is its instability. Instead of searching for a firm foundation, I realised that I had one in the very opposite. That was solid ground again, so to speak, and by accepting this paradox I could begin to work with the fleeting, the elusive, with those things which disappear when you actually apply your attention hard and fast." The artist interviewed by Michael Craig-Martin in Robert Kudielka, Ed., Dialogues on Art, London 1995, p. 56
Illustrated on the cover of Bridget Riley's solo show at the Dia Center for the Arts in 2000, Entice 2 from 1974 is one of the artist's most complex and sophisticated colour compositions. Built up of vertically twisting ribbons of pink, blue and green, backed with pale grey and white in varying sequences, the seemingly simple means generates a magisterial chromatic effect of astonishing diversity. By pairing different colours together, Riley interrogates the instability of colour, which changes by proximity to another colour. From the three colours in Entice 2, Riley creates the sensation of numerous other colours, including orange and mauve. As soon as we try to scrutinise these areas of colour, they disappear as a result of our focus and appear elsewhere on the canvas in our outer field of vision. Although individually these incidents of colour change are quite faint, the combination of colour interaction and the high frequency of the repetition amplifies the effect. As she experimented with colour in various different compositions over the course of the 1970s, Riley recognised that the chromatic visual effect is heightened by the length of the line, as the greater length allows for a greater edge between two colours. In Entice 2, the scale of the canvas is such that it fills our complete field of vision as we encounter it, thereby amplifying the visual effect to the maximum.
Riley was fascinated by colour from an early age and throughout the 1950s she made numerous studies from Georges Seurat, seeking to understand the mechanics behind the colour theory of the master of Pointilism. In her breakthrough works of the 1960s, however, she eradicated colour from her palette as she explored the fertile binary dialectic of high contrast black and white. Behind the scenes, however, she was seeking to incorporate colour into the evolved contrast structure of her early work, however these early prototypes never left the studio. Colour first appears in the form of cool or warm greys, in such works as Arrest 2 from 1965. Cataract 3 from 1967 boldly announces a new facility with colour, but it is not until Chant 2 also from 1967, that grey is eradicated from the palette altogether.
After her breakthrough with colour, having established its striking visual effects in seminal works such as Chant 2, in the early 1970s Riley made various attempts at strengthening its intensity and giving more body to the fugitive sensations. As her confidence grew she incorporated greater formal complexity, reconfiguring the variables at her disposal - line, colour, form - to compose canvases of dramatic effect. Entice 2 is among the first of a body of works which reintroduces the curve as an organising principle. After the coloured stripe paintings - arranged vertically, horizontally and diagonally in various works from the early 1970s - in Entice 2 Riley creates a vertical curve which is diagonally displaced, a composition which looks back to Cataract 3, rotating the earlier prototype into a vertical orientation. "Riley's work from the mid-1970s until the end of the decade took her concern with colour interaction and its relationship with light to new levels of complexity. The vehicle for these developments was her adoption in 1974 of the curve form as the fundamental unit of her paintings" (Paul Moorhouse, 'A Dialogue with Sensation: The Art of Bridget Riley' in Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate, Bridget Riley, 2003, p. 20).
Thanks to the tapering points, the colour relationships within each stripe are destabilised, giving rise to an astonishing range of colour sensations which gather significant force as they repeat across the canvas. Simultaneously, the widening and contracting bands of the cascading curves create a spatial optical effect, as described by Roberta Smith, "Spend time with the candy-cane rivulets of Entice 2 (1974), which also might be compared to the twists of a Baroque column, and its bulging surface will suddenly tilt inward into a series of concave troughs" (Roberta Smith, 'Saluting a Pure Form of Abstraction, Long May It Wave' in Art Review, September 2000).
Having eradicated black from her palette in the early colour works, in Entice 2 she reintroduces pale greys which are tonally matched to the colours which flank them. The effect is to give more weight and density to the play of colour. As Paul Moorhouse explains, "To facilitate this colour fusion further, the first curve paintings, such as Entice 2, introduce passages of grey, in addition to the white ground. The reduction of tonal contrast in order to increase the intensity of colour recalls the theme of Deny 2 and is a further instance of Riley's recycling of earlier ideas" (Paul Moorhouse, Op Cit, p. 21).
As Robert Kudielka describes, "Reintroducing and transforming earlier themes and devices is one of the ways in which Riley proceeds. At first glance Entice 2 seems simply to combine the curve element with greys, rather in the manner of Cantus Firmus (1972-73). A vertical curve is diagonally displaced so that a continuous field of narrowing and widening forms emerges, every third interval carrying a constant grey of the same tonal pitch as the colours which flank it. There also seems to be a repetition of the blues, greens and reds which mirror each other across the white intervals. But this order is deceptive because the continuity is undermined by rhythmic syncopations attracting and evading our attention. Identical colour pairs are interspersed with contrasting pairings, and the apparent overall organisation harbours a number of hidden accents and shifts, the most notable of which is the emphasis towards warm greens and reds on the right side" (Robert Kudielka, 'Building Sensations: The Early Work of Bridget Riley' in Robert Kudielka on Bridget Riley: Essays and Interviews 1972-2003, London 2005, p. 196).