This silkscreen print is a horizontal frieze with alternating irregular curvilinear forms in pale pink and vibrant blue. It is one of a number of works using repeated curved forms that Riley began making in 1997. Since her move into pure geometric abstraction in the early 1960s, Riley has worked in series, focussing for several years on a particular formal theme. The curvilinear paintings and prints of the late 1990s and early twenty-first century employ overlapping curved segments, typically in combinations of no more than five colours. The works are structured on a diagonal grid. In Blue and Pink it is possible to follow a series of implicit diagonal lines moving from bottom left to top right, giving the print a sense of movement.
In its use of curved forms and harmonious colour scheme, Blue and Pink suggests the influence of the late work of Henri Matisse (1869-1954). The palette of Riley’s print particularly recalls the background colours of Matisse’s Paris Dance Mural, 1931-3 (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris). In Matisse’s mural a series of pale grey figures dance against a background in which wide diagonal pink and blue stripes are interspersed with areas of black. In Riley’s print the coloured shapes themselves appear to dance. The fluid dynamism of her forms is accentuated by an irregular rhythm; the left side of the print is dominated by wide pink forms while towards the right side narrower blue forms take precedence.
As Robert Kudielka points out, Riley’s carefully planned structure ensures that the figure/ground relationship between the colours remains ambiguous (see Kudielka, ‘Abstract Figuration: On Bridget Riley’s Recent Curve Paintings’, Bridget Riley, pp.151-7). The segmented curves overlap in such a way that it is possible to read both colours alternately as figure and ground. The colours contrast dynamically. The traditional gendered associations of pink for girls and blue for boys arguably give the interplay between the colours a gently romantic resonance.
The curved shapes also recall the outline of leaves or petals. Riley has spoken about her great love of nature (see Riley and Bryan Robertson, ‘Things to Enjoy’, Bridget Riley: Dialogues on Art, pp.83-97) and although the forms in Blue and Pink are not directly representational, they suggest shapes and rhythms familiar from the natural world.
This print was produced on the occasion of an exhibition of Riley’s recent paintings at the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum and Museum Haus Esters in Krefeld, Germany in 2002. It was published in an edition of 90 plus ten artist’s proofs; the print owned by Tate is 56 in the series. The print is related to Riley’s large painting Evoë 3, 2003 (Tate T11753), in which the pale pink and bright blue of the print are combined with a darker pink and bright green.
Paul Moorhouse, ed., Bridget Riley, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London, 2003.
Lynn MacRitchie and Craig Hartley, Bridget Riley: Complete Prints 1962-2001, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London, 2002, reproduced no.47 in colour.
Robert Kudielka, ed., Bridget Riley: Dialogues on Art, London, 2003.