Op-Art, Bridget Riley and Nikos Smyrnios

My final art pieces are constructed by geometrical forms and lines in order to create optical illusions. The Op Art movement strongly influenced my work during this project and artists such as Bridget Riley and Nikos Smyrnios, who number among the movement, have created strong powered art related to visual illusions.

”Artists have been intrigued by the nature of perception and by optical effects and illusions for many centuries. They have often been a central concern of art, just as much as themes drawn from history or literature. But in the 1950s these preoccupations, allied to new interests in technology and psychology, blossomed into a movement. Op, or Optical, art typically employs abstract patterns composed with a stark contrast of foreground and background – often in black and white for maximum contrast – to produce effects that confuse and excite the eye. Initially, Op shared the field with Kinetic art – Op artists being drawn to virtual movement, Kinetic artists attracted by the possibility of real motion. Both styles were launched with Le Mouvement, a group exhibition at Galerie Denise Rene in 1955. It attracted a wide international following, and after it was celebrated with a survey exhibition in 1965, The Responsive Eye, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, it caught the public’s imagination and led to a craze for Op designs in fashion and the media. To many, it seemed the perfect style for an age defined by the onward march of science, by advances in computing, aerospace, and television. But art critics were never so supportive of it, attacking its effects as gimmicks, and today it remains tainted by those dismissals.” (The Art Story, 2018)

Bridget Riley was born in London in 1931 and moved to Cornwall after the beginning of the war. As a child, she spent hours observing the changing light, colour and cloud formations. She stored away her memories and she later said that her early memories have had a big impact on her visual awareness throughout her life. Riley began to produce her first Op Art paintings around the 60s, she worked with only black and white, using simple geometric shapes – squares, lines and ovals. She emphasized in optical effects and gained popularity after an exhibition along with the artist Victor Vasarely in the Museum of Modern Art in New York at an exhibition called  “The Responsive Eye” in 1965. Her painting was the one on the cover of the exhibition catalogue. Her work was critiqued as simple tricks for the eye but she had already gained popularity within the public. Some years later Riley introduced herself to the colour and it was the positioning of the colour itself that created the feel of movement that she wanted to express. The colour categorization influenced the spaces between them to produce fleeting glimpses of other colours and hence the illusion of movement.




“I couldn’t get near what I wanted through seeing, recognizing and recreating, so I stood the problem on its head. I started studying squares, rectangles, triangles and the sensations they give rise to… It is untrue that my work depends on any literary impulse or has any illustrative intention. The marks on the canvas are sole and essential agents in a series of relationships which form the structure of the painting.” (Bridget Riley)

Nikos Smyrnios is a Greek artist who grew up during the Op Art movements rising along with the Pop Art movement. He was strongly affected by both and continuously tried to combine them into his practice. He currently lives and works in Greece. He mostly uses the Adobe software for his creations and through experimentation, he achieves to exploit the programs creative possibilities to the maximum.

”The outcome of my art varies from traditional painting, to pen drawing and digital printing, so the technical process varies accordingly. In every case, the use of the computer is a matter of crucial importance, not only during the image generation process but also when trying to solve problems related to the final composition, the colours, etc.  My confident handling of formal techniques derives from my professional graphic design background.  As a graphic artist, I am familiar with the laws of visual perception, which I use to create optical interest in my art.  By this means I approach the techniques of op art and try to match them to the philosophy of pop art.” (Nikos Smyrnios)




Op-art.co.uk. (2018). Bridget Riley | Op-art.co.uk | Op-Art.co.uk. [online] Available at: http://www.op-art.co.uk/bridget-riley/ [Accessed 1 Jun. 2018].

Smyrnios, N. (2018). Nikos Smyrnios | Op-Art.co.uk. [online] Op-art.co.uk. Available at: http://www.op-art.co.uk/2012/10/nikos-smyrnios/ [Accessed 3 Jun. 2018].

Tate. (2018). Bridget Riley born 1931 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/bridget-riley-1845 [Accessed 1 Jun. 2018].

The Art Story. (2018). Op Art Movement, Artists and Major Works. [online] Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-op-art.htm [Accessed 3 Jun. 2018].

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