Animating Paintings

Made by abiagiol

An effort to realize the implied movement in many of Bridget Riley's Op-Art paintings. A fully procedural / digital museum created in Unity.

Created: September 8th, 2016


You can download the completed project for Windows and Mac here!  Use your mouse to look and the WSAD / Arrow keys to move.  Use Command+Q on Mac or Alt+F4 on Windows to Quit.


The essential goal of this project is to translate the works of artist Bridget Riley into a digital and three-dimensional form, to be viewed in a sort of virtual museum.  Ideally, the experience would be viewed in Virtual Reality, as VR gives a sense of scale and presence not possible through a traditional monitor.  However a VR implementation is beyond the scope of this project.  In my "looking out" assignment I was quite successful in realizing the implied movement of Bridget Riley's "Fall."  The animated and fully procedural nature of the piece has an incredible impact on the viewer due to its complex optical effects.  In addition to including "Fall" into my museum, I included three more interpretations of Riley's "Movement in Squares," "Untitled (Fragment 3)" and "Untitled (Fragment 1)."  The three additions are not only animated (like "Fall") but have also been reinterpreted into 3D.


Bridget Riley is a painter mostly known for her contributions to Op-Art.  While she is still alive and active today, Riley is famous for her work in the mid 1960s.  Op-Art (short for Optical Art) is an artistic genre characterized by the use of optical illusions.  These optical illusions attempt to trick the viewer into perceiving depth, movement, or color.  Riley's works are particularly known for their ability to cause feelings of seasickness and dizziness in some cases.  One of the goals of this project was to translate the implied depth and movement from her paintings into a more literal motion that is possible in a virtual world.  Because of this, much attention was paid towards the message that Riley tried to give off with the piece.  For example, I interpreted Riley's "Fall" as a flowing waterfall in motion, and this interpretation carried over to the final piece.  In the case of "Movement in Squares" the implied depth was rather obvious - the challenge there was to faithfully recreate the effect using 3D software.


I primarily used two pieces of software throughout the development of this project: the Unity game engine and Blender, a 3D modelling suite.  My implementation of "Fall" was comparatively trivial, as it is a direct port from my looking out assignment.  For more information on the process of creating "Fall," see the Looking Out project page.  As for the other three pieces ("Movement in Squares," "Untitled (Fragment 3)" and "Untitled (Fragment 1).") the creative process began by looking at the piece and attempting to deconstruct what the abstract shapes on Riley's canvas were trying to represent.  For example, here is a picture of a deconstruction-in-progress of "Untitled (Fragment 3)" in Blender:

In this case, I used bezier curves to trace the curves in the middle of the piece.  I used Blender's "Knife Project" tool to cut these curves into a striped cylinder, and offset the cuts downward to create the cascading effect you see in the final piece.  The result of this is the mesh shown below: