Summary

Hesitate is one of a group of black and white paintings made by Riley in 1964 in which the titles imply emotional tension, for example Disturbance, Chill, Loss and Pause. The shapes were drawn first using a compass, and with templates for the larger ellipses; the smaller ones were drawn freehand. The shades of grey were judged by eye. Pause, 1964 (private collection) is similar in design to Hesitate, but with the ellipses forming a vertical line and the changes of tone reversed. Pause itself develops an idea in an earlier painting Movement in Squares, 1961 (Arts Council Collection), but with the rectangles replaced by ellipses and circles, and with the addition of the changes of tone.

Riley was concerned that the painting should be seen as a whole, as a 'field', and the individual parts not noticed. She described Pause (conversation of 11 April 1986), with its vertical fold, as associated with the human figure, and Hesitate in contrast as like a landscape. The overall size of each painting is crucial to the placing of the fold and to the visual effect, which depends on an awareness of the contrast between different parts at the same time.

Further reading:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1988, pp.257-8, reproduced

Terry Riggs
February 1998