Op-art, short for optical art, is a style of abstract visual art that uses optical illusions. An optical illusion is something, usually an image, that deceives the eye by appearing as something it’s not. The op-at movement beginning in the 1950’s was driven by artists interested in investigating various perceptual effects.
Bridget Riley is an English painter who was an important figure in the op-art movement and is still well known to this day. He earlier works focussed on life drawing where she worked in mostly black and white. Riley developed her current unique style of work in the 1960’s and was influenced by a number of things. Her work was influenced more by what she saw by eye rather than theory. Her first op-art works were made up of simple black and white geometric shapes. She began investigating colour in her work in 1969 and was inspired by colourful hieroglyphic decoration in Egypt during a trip in the 1980’s leading her to explore colour and contrast. Her paintings are very large and take months to develop. She makes small colour studies in gouache and produces a full size mock on paper then paints her final painting in oil and acrylic with high precision. She often works with assistants because of the large scale of her work.
Figure-Ground is the visual relationship between background and foreground in an image.
Figure: The main focus/foreground.
Ground: The secondary element/background
Simply, figure-ground refers to our ability to separate elements based on contrast (dark and light/black and white).
Figure-Ground Ambiguity means visual illusion with two alternative viewpoints. The illusion is created by the inversion of figure and ground or two objects that share a similar edge. A famous example of this type of illusion is ‘Rubin’s Vase’, developed by psychologist Edgar Rubin.