Bridget Riley

In Red with Red (2007) the transcription of visual phenomena (leaping flames, refracted light, Arabic calligraphs) into a rigorously ordered and formal geometry is both simple and complex: the graphic immediacy and brilliant colours only slowly revealing the multiplying rhythms and complex permutations that lie within its mathematical structure. If the horizontal drift of its twisting diagonals is carefully checked by a central vertical axis, the sense of order is disturbed by the optical impact generated by the three interlocking colour fields. The cumulative effect is both rigorous and sensuous and not unlike the experience of being lost in a beautifully crafted maze. There is even the suggestion of the cursive script in the three letters of R E D being woven into the design.

While she shows us how, at a formal level, its visual dynamic resonates in the abstract structures of paintings by Raphael and Seurat , its most obvious antecedent must be Matisse’s late cutouts. More than any other image though it is the rhythmic forms and enveloping colours of his ‘Dance’ that spring to mind. Yet the perceptual language remains all hers; at once richly inventive and historically grounded, it is what makes Red with Red such a seriously good painting.

Bridget Riley:Paintings & Related Work, National Gallery, London, until 22 May 2011