When one thinks of Bridget Riley, it is usually with a mind to her breakout Op Art works — large pieces with lines and shapes that twist and move like optical illusions. One Small Step (2009) does not quite conform to this idea, and is all the more interesting for it.
Staid and sure, but somehow retaining Riley’s characteristic fluidity, the print is strongly reminiscent of the Boccioni sculptures Riley so admired. The work’s title is perhaps a nod to that movement, to the pink curve that bravely runs just a little way outside of the print’s concentric rectangles — as though it were pushed out by the flash of dark blue that sits securely in the middle of the piece.
As a later work, the print’s use of colour is also bolder than some of Riley’s earlier forays beyond her characteristic black and white. Riley was inspired as a child by the light and movement of the clouds and water where she played by the sea in Cornwall, and she herself professed its influence on her work; this influence shows in the ephemeral movement and contrast of bright and pale in works such as Firebird (1971), and To a Summer's Day (1980). Her trips to Egypt and India are behind the riotous colour of works like Nataraja (1993). The three strong shades of this print, bold and unerring in line and breadth of colour, leave us to wonder what inspired the artful confidence of such a comparatively small image.
By Clara Foster