An Ayrshire Arts Archive ~ Arts Groups and Venues

Visual Arts GroupSouth West Galleries Association ~ Bridget Riley Touring Exhibition

Bridget Riley Exhibition

The South West Galleries Association was an informal group of West of Scotland Art Galleries and Museums formed in 1983, with the aim of fostering co-operation on matters of common interest and making better use of the resources which exist within the group.  The Bridget Riley exhibition was the first touring exhibition of work by a living contemporary artist initiated by the group.

The exhibition offered the opportunity of showing the work of an artist whose paintings were not readily accessible in Scotland at that time but who had been a major influence in the development of 'op art' in the 20th century.  It was a studio-based exhibition, with most material coming from the artist's studio or her dealer.  However, there was one early work lent by a private collector in London and Sheffield City Art Galleries lent a work Rise 1 (1968), with 7 associated studies. As a project, the exhibition offered a very different perspective from the group's first touring exhibition which had been based on the local collections.

The exhibition opened at the Maclaurin Art Gallery, in Ayr, on 6th September, 1986, with subsequent showings at the Dick Institute (Kilmarnock), the McLean Art Gallery (Greenock), the Lillie Art Gallery (Milngavie) and Paisley Museum and Art Gallery.  The Gracefield Arts centre (Dumfries) did not participate in the tour.

The exhibition catalogue included an essay by Edward Lucie-Smith (art critic for The Times and the London Evening Standard) who wrote:

This exhibition, though compact, is ambitious in aim. It covers the full range of Bridget Riley's career; it includes both major finished paintings and the preliminary studies that lead up to them, and it tries to demonstrate both her intentions in making art and the historical roots of her work. She is a major innovator, but one who is very much aware of close relationships between what she does and things which other artists have done in the past.

Riley's paintings, on linen, in common with many other works of that period, require very careful handling and maintenance to ensure that they are presented in pristine condition.    The initial installation at the Maclaurin Art Gallery was preceded by a handling workshop for the curators, led by one of Riley's studio assistants.  The same individual assisted with the initial installation in three of the gallery spaces at the Maclaurin, where white walls were introduced for the first time, creating a very different experience for visitors.

Of the forty works selected for this exhibition, only thirty were shown in Ayr.   The reduced scale of the exhibition ensured sufficient breathing space for the larger works.

The association worked closely with Alex Gregory-Hood and staff at the Juda Rowan Gallery in the realisation of this exhibition.

For further information please follow these LINKS:-

Maclaurin Art Collection  ~  Bridget Riley

Exhibition launch in Ayr  ~ Rose Return Purchase
South West Galleries Association Home Page  ~ Exhibition

Rose Return
Bridget Riley.  Rose Return (1985).  Oil on linen, 1630 x 1430 mm.  Photograph ©Mike Bailey

This work was purchased from the exhibition by the Maclaurin Trust. magnify 

Catalogue illustration: Bridget Riley in her studio, 1984.    Photograph  magnify   ©Anthea Sieveking.

The Network acknowledges the assistance of Mike Bailey for the provision of material for this section of the website.

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