(British, b.1931) is a member of the Op Art movement, and a painter best known for her black and white paintings that create unique optical effects on canvas. Riley was born in London, and studied art at both Goldsmiths College and the Royal College of Art; she painted with an expressive, impressionist aesthetic early in her career. While working as an art instructor in the early 1960s, she developed her signature Op Art technique. Op Art’s rise in the 1960s reflected several preoccupations of the era, including a search for new ways to engage the viewer with art, and the state of the individual amidst an age of hallucinogenic drugs and the atomic bomb.
Influenced by artists including Georges Seurat
(French, 1859–1891) and Victor Vasarely
(French-Hungarian, 1906–1997), Riley began to produce works in black and white geometric shapes that created sensations of movement and color by experimenting with the disconcerting optical illusions that could be rendered on a two-dimensional surface. Riley incorporates new shapes and designs into her later work, and reflects the influence of Egyptian hieroglyphs in pieces that play with opposing colors. Though she still designs her own compositions, the artist enlisted the help of assistants during her later career to execute her pieces. Her recent work also reflects an engagement with specific historical, religious, and cultural symbols. Riley received a prize in painting at the 1969 Venice Biennale, and has been awarded several honorary degrees. She currently divides her time between England and France.