At primary school you were taught that there are three primary colours: red, yellow and blue, and that you can mix these to make all other colours. This is not true. Or rather, it is only a rough approximation to the truth. My recent article, published in the Journal of Perceptual Imaging, digs into the history of colour wheels and colour mixing to find that the truth is more complex and more interesting. The idea that there are three primary paint colours was discovered in the seventeenth century. Different artists used different shades, which were roughly reddish, yellowish and bluish. This theory was consolidated in the 1950sRead More →

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life Tate Britain 26 June to 20 October 2013 10:00-18:00 daily “It’s grim up north” has become a joke phrase in Britain, parodied in the pages of Private Eye and used in comic sketches for years. The Lowry exhibition at Tate Britain demonstrates that it truly was grim in the industrialised north in the first half of the 20th century. Lowry shows us grimy buildings alongside desolate wastelands. His stick people crowd round a dead body on the ground or watch as the fever van takes away another sick child or attend one more funeral. This is not aRead More →


One of the most common complaints against modern art is “my child could have painted that!” My work on Bridget Riley’s stripe paintings demonstrates that this does not stand up to scrutiny. Let me explain, first looking at the composition and then at the execution of the painting. First, composition. Could a child compose a sequence of stripes that emulates Bridget Riley’s work? Elsewhere I have analysed the sequence of colours and the choice of colours in Bridget Riley’s stripe paintings. Her colour choice and her ordering of the stripes require a depth of artistic understanding that would evade many adults. It would be an extraordinary childRead More →


Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work 24 November 2010 – 22 May 2011 Sunley Room, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London Admission free British artist Bridget Riley is best known for her 1960s ‘op-art’ paintings: black and white patterns that appear to shimmer and twist as they play with the early visual processing system in the human eye. Riley’s later paintings exploit higher cognitive processes: provoking softer visual sensations rather than perceptive shock. An intimate exhibition at London’s National Gallery, running until May, shows how her experimental style is rooted firmly in the Western artistic tradition. Eleven of Riley’s abstract paintings, spanning her career, areRead More →