Blaze IV

Bridget Riley (1931 - )

Reproduction print


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© Bridget Riley 2012. All rights reserved, courtesy Karsten Schubert, London

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  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road

    Blaze IV is a variation on a series of works that Bridget Riley began in the 1960s. In this reproduction print, Riley’s central motif is a spiral composed of concentric circles of black and white zigzag lines. The immediate visual sensation is of relentless movement: the eye moves across the image making it hard to focus on one fixed point.


    The alternating direction of the circles creates the illusion that each is set within a different plane. As the circles recede into the centre, the contrast between black and white diminishes into grey. The image’s circular shape and its title allude to the sun – the visual distortions of Blaze IV replicate the sensations created by the shimmer of intense heat. The stark contrast between black and white and the opposing direction of the zigzags, results in an image that is almost impossible to stare at continuously – just as it is impossible to stare directly at the sun.


    During 1961–67, Riley’s paintings and drawings featured predominantly black and white triangles, diamonds and squares. In 1960 she had suffered a personal and artistic crisis that had a profound effect on her approach to painting and use of colour. Before this, she had experimented with tonal relationships between colours, and had been particularly influenced by the explorations of colour and technique in the work of Georges Seurat (1859–91), the French neo-Impressionist painter. Her early subsequent attempts to express emotion via a completely black painting, resulted instead in a number of dazzling black and white images which she described as ‘... beautifully aggressive... I felt very much at the time like making an extreme statement, of something violent, something that definitely did disturb’.

  • About the artist
    Bridget Riley was born in London and studied at Goldsmiths College and the Royal College of Art, London, in the 1950s. In 1965, her work came to international attention following her participation in the acclaimed Op Art exhibition 'The Responsive Eye', at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1968, Riley became the first contemporary British artist, and the first woman, to win the International Prize at the Venice Biennale. She went on to exhibit and travel widely around the world during the 1970s and ‘80s. Her exploration of the relationships between colour, form and her perception of the natural world continue to be central to her work today. Riley was appointed a Companion of Honour in 1999 with a major retrospective of her work held at the Tate in 2003. Riley has written extensively about her work, including 'The Eye’s Mind: Bridget Riley: Collected Writings 1965–2009', co-authored with Robert Kudielka. In 2012, Riley was officially awarded the 12th Rubens Prize from the city of Siegen, Germany, an award presented every five years to a painter living in Europe in honour of their lifetime artistic accomplishment. In 2016, a year-long major exhibition celebrating 50 years of painting by Riley opened at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. A full retrospective of Riley’s paintings, prints and drawings opened at the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh in the summer of 2019, travelling on to the Hayward Gallery, London, that autumn.
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  • Details
    Blaze IV
    Reproduction print
    Purchased May 1973
    GAC number