Bridget Riley at Tate Britain: Size Does Matter
Some of the later work is rather limp, though I like some of her vertical/diagonal grid paintings, with colouring that may be on some scheme that I’ve not grasped yet, but is anyway sometimes compelling. Still, of course the main interest is in that astounding ’60s work, the brain-boggling patterns that everyone sort of recognises even if Riley isn’t so hugely famous herself. Looking at these doesn’t feel like many other experiences in the history of painting, which is an extraordinary achievement.
The best surprise in this show is a room packed with cartoons and sketches and plans for her work, all carefully calculated on graph paper and at least partially executed. You get to see the workings (and a couple of large photos in the anteroom tell us more), and you also notice that scale is so important, that the effects of miniaturised versions are different in quality, not simply quantity, from the full-scale works, in a way that is true of some other great Modernists such as Rothko, Pollock and Newman, but I’m not sure was ever true of any paintings before the 20th Century. Of course you generally get more from seeing most paintings life-size rather than in little reproductions, but I’m talking about getting something entirely different, and I think that might be quite new.