Listening to Art

02.04: Bridget Riley, Drift No. 2

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Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume two, number four: Drift No. 2 by Bridget Riley.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

This is the second of two issues devoted to British painter Bridget Riley. In the last I quoted from a 1965 essay she wrote. Drift No. 2 was painted a year later, in 1966. I will skip ahead almost twenty years to quote from her 1983 essay “The Flowering of the Abstract,” reprinted in The Eye’s Mind: Bridget Riley, Collected Writings 1965–2009, edited by Robert Kudielka (p. 189).

In my view the innovations of the second half of the 19th-century and of the first half of our own have not yet been been fully developed and still carry the seeds for the future. Alas, since the Second World War this precious heritage has been plundered in such a damaging and superficial way that both artists and the interested public feel disillusioned and sense that Modern art as a whole has somehow let them down or simply failed. Yet one has only to go back to the works of the great innovators to see their true stature and to regain access to the still imperfectly appreciated wealth which they bequeathed.

Great periods of artistic flowering are rare and short: only 30 years for the high point of classical Greek art, for instance. Valid insights, however, hold good, even if they are neglected during periods of decline and doldrum. Abstract painting, now some 75 years old, is still relatively in its infancy. If Mondrian was the Giotto of Abstract painting, the High Renaissance is still to come.

In particular, the potential of what is called abstract colour painting, which places particular emphasis on the interplay between colours, has barely been touched. I would expect and hope that by the year 2020 abstract painters will be extracting from this endlessly rich seam a range of exciting work which will genuinely enlarge the vocabulary of art and our perception of the world around us.

This is a painting, acrylic on canvas, 227.3 cm wide by 232.4 cm high.

Now let’s listen to Drift No. 2 by Bridget Riley, recorded at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in Buffalo, New York, on 16 July 2017.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was Drift No. 2 by Bridget Riley. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

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All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Riley, Bridget. “The Flowering of the Abstract.” In The Eye’s Mind: Bridget Riley, Collected Writings 1965–2009, ed. Robert Kudielka. London: Thames and Hudson, 2009.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Bridget Riley,”