Bridget RILEY
Opening (1961)
tempera and pencil on composition board
102.6 x 102.7 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1967
© Bridget Riley 2014. All rights reserved, courtesy Karsten Schubert, London

Bridget Riley


‘The eye can travel over the surface in a way parallel to the way it moves over nature. It should feel caressed and soothed, experience frictions and ruptures, glide and drift…One moment there will be nothing to look at and the next second the canvas seems to refill, to be crowded with visual events.’
Bridget Riley

Since the early 1960s, Bridget Riley has been creating paintings and prints that explore visual sensation and experience. Between 1961 and 1964 she worked only in black and white acrylic paints. She was interested in the energy and vibrations between the two tones.

'Opening is the artist’s 14th black and white painting during a period in which her work incorporated basic geometric shapes, lines and dots. The diamond shape appears to hover as it weaves in and out of the repetitive parallel stripes’ (Rhodes 2003, p. 79). In the centre of the square canvas, the black and white lines part like a curtain to create the ‘opening’ that is the focal point of the painting.

Classroom discussion:

  • The titles of Riley’s paintings provide a starting point to discover different meanings and moods in her work. Describe in detail how the artist has created the idea of an ‘opening’ in this painting.
  • Think of an alternative title for this painting. Why do you think this title suits the painting?
  • Looking at Riley’s paintings has been described as ‘a physical as well as a mental activity’. What do you think this means? You might find it helpful to consider the artist’s quote above. 

K. Rhodes in T. Gott, L. Benson & contributors, 20th Century Painting and Sculpture in the International Collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003.