Chromatic Sensation: Bridget Riley’s Magnificent Delos

Hong Kong | 7 October 2022

Executed in 1983 and belonging to the cycle of ‘Egyptian Palette’ paintings produced in the aftermath of Bridget Riley’s profoundly influential travels in the winter of 1979-1980, Delos stands among the most optically arresting and jubilant of this important series. Recognised as a pioneer of the Op Art movement, Riley focused on her ‘Egyptian’ paintings throughout the first half of the 1980s—considered a pivotal breakthrough in the artist’s career during which time she intensified her colour palette, returned to the neutral, “unassertive” stripes that had occupied her since the 1960s, and began to work in oil paint, rather than acrylic and other synthetic materials, to allow for greater saturation and density of colour and refraction. Whilst the linear pattern of Delos fundamentally stabilises and structures the picture plane, the chromatic reaction of one colour juxtaposed against the another incites an optical illusion that engenders a wavering and rhythmic chromatic pulsation. 

Named after the Greek island of Delos, this intensely evocative painting is rooted in memory and suffused with sheer kaleidoscopic sensorial effect. Testament to the brilliance and significance of Riley’s ‘Egyptian Palette’ paintings within her oeuvre, other examples can be found in prominent institutions such as Tate, London, which holds Achæan (1981) in their permanent collection, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which houses Blue About (1983/2002). Additionally, a similarly coloured painting, Meadow, also executed in 1983 is part of the permanent collection of Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

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