‘Each band has a clear identity. Step back and the colours begin to interact, further away still a field of closely modulated harmonies cut by strong contrasts opens up’ – Bridget Riley
‘At the core of colour lies a paradox. It is simultaneously one thing and several things – you can never see colour by itself, it is always affected by other colours’ – Bridget Riley
Blazing stripes of brilliant colour fill Bridget Riley’s Three colours (Blue, Yellow and Turquoise) Precipitating Magenta, 1982. Slices of terracotta, yellow, blue, turquoise, and white cascade down the paper plane. Inspired by the dazzling colours of the ancient pyramids against a blinding Nile sky, the work is part of a cycle of striped works that Riley embarked upon after a trip to Egypt three years prior. Under the influence of Eygpt, Riley abandoned the curved forms she had previously been painting and the series of stripe paintings represent a pivotal moment in the artist’s career. Reflecting upon it, Riley has written, ‘Right up to, and in some ways including, the stripe paintings I used to build up to sensation, accumulating tension until it released a perceptual experience that flooded the whole as it were. Now I try to take sensation as the guiding line and build, with the relationships it demands, a plastic fabric which has no other raison d’être except to accommodate the sensations it elicits’ (B. Riley, ‘According to Sensation: in Conversation with Robert Kudielka’, 1990, in The Eye’s Mind: Bridget Riley, Collected Writings 1965-1999, London 1999, p. 79). Riley composed the present work by moving around paper strips so that she could best identify a radiant chromatic pattern. She has a profound, almost innate understanding of colour’s mutability, see how its status is never fixed but rather determined by environmental context. As her utter fascination with the ancient Egyptian tombs makes clear, Riley’s practice, although visually abstract, is rooted in the real, and the colour palette of Three colours (Blue, Yellow and Turquoise) Precipitating Magenta thrums with the energy of the ancient world.