Bridget Riley’s trip to Egypt in the winter of 1979-80 proved to be a crucial watershed in her career. Inspired by the colours of the tombs of the Pharaohs and by the colours of the everyday artefacts she saw in the Cairo Museum, the artist evolved what she described as her ‘Egyptian Palette’.
The Ka series (the Egyptian word for spirit) is the first manifestation of the new intensity of colour in her work and also mark the return of her stripe compositions. For the previous 6-8 years the artist had been working on curve paintings and she now returned to broad stripes with black as a key component. Black works as the dominant element punctuating the painting by splitting the other stripes into distinct groups. The effect, as the catalogue of recent Tate Retrospective points out “is analogous to phrasing within a passage of music: the internal relationships articulate the larger structure”.