The UK artist Bridget Riley, 91, will unveil her first ceiling painting in Rome this spring. The work, made using the artist’s so-called Egyptian palette, will cover the four barrel vaults of the ceiling at the British School at Rome. Riley gives a glimpse of the work in an image showing her design for the vast overhead canvas, mimicking Renaissance masters such as Caravaggio.
Riley has discussed the Egyptian palette, saying: “The ancient Egyptians had a fixed palette. They used the same colours—turquoise, blue, red, yellow, green, black and white—for over 3,000 years. In each and every usage these colours appeared different but at the same time they united the appearance of the entire culture.”
The artist adds in a statement: “I would like to thank the British School at Rome for its invitation to paint the vaulting barrels of Edwin Lutyens’s beautiful ceiling. It was the beginning of an exhilarating visual chase. Exhilarating but not without hazard… I pursued this perceptual adventure and played my ‘colour acoustics’ with great delight. Looking up, the colour of the skies offers a glimpse of nature in her most promising and serene mood.”
The British School, located next to the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, was established in 1901 and is housed in a neoclassical building designed by Lutyens for a 1911 exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of Italy (the event attracted more than 7 million visitors). Alumni of the British School include Cornelia Parker and Mark Wallinger; artists who have taken up residency at the British School include Eddie Peake, Elizabeth Price and Laure Prouvost.
Currently, a travelling exhibition featuring more than 90 of her works on paper reveals Riley’s evolution in line, tone and colour.