British painter and printmaker Tess Jaray RA (b. 1937) is one of the inspiring female artists, invited by art critic Frances Hedges, to exhibit in the ING Discerning Eye exhibition 2018. Works by invited artists are shown alongside those selected through open submission, enabling emerging artists to exhibit alongside more established practitioners. Ahead of this year’s submission, Jaray discusses her practice, drawing on themes of abstraction, space and the natural world.
A: Your paintings and prints offer a distinctive blend of colour, geometry and pattern. How do they use techniques such as repetition to question ideas of perception?
TJ: I am attempting to make some sense of the obsessive searching for patterns and repetition in nature and in art. It is a need for the merging of inside and outside, distance and closeness, a marriage of opposites.
In geometry I understand there to be an element of nature as well. There may be almost no absolute symmetry in nature but there is order within what seems to be chaos. So that which appears to be very man-made – even mechanical – in a painting, still has an implicit relationship to nature.
A: What inspired your interest in the natural world?
TJ: When I was a child in the days – and nights – before television, I sat every evening and drew the landscape in which I then lived. Fields, meadows, and orchards, divided by hedges, so many hedges, which gave the land a totally different scale from the one it has today – at that time each hedge was full of its own life, birds and creatures you hardly ever see now.
A: How do your paintings combine elements of the environment with abstraction techniques?
TJ: The paintings are presenting hills, curves against a dark, or a pale sky. But the tones are so close you can’t see anything unless you move close up against them. Almost invisible. I love that idea. A painting that you can hardly see, but that still somehow asserts itself as a painting.
A: Your works – which are part of 2018’s ING Discerning Eye exhibition – offer complex layers of meaning. How do you begin these projects?
TJ: If there was a starting point to these paintings, it would have to be in the concept of the drawing: the overall form, the matrix, the landscape and theatre that are the underlying structure for the events that are to take place on it and within it.
I also get up in the middle of the night. Most nights I do this, and it’s silent. It’s extraordinarily silent. I love this silence. It seems to make an immense space around me, and out of this come paintings. Infused into the works are issues of stillness, space and solitude.
A: The paintings communicate a range of meanings and emotions. How should audiences interpret your pieces?
TJ: When people ask what is it? Or what is it meant to represent? I have to say it is not in the mind’s eye but rather in the eye’s mind.
ING Discerning Eye, an exhibition of small works selected by prominent figures in the art world, is currently calling for entries. Pre-register by 28 August 2018, 5pm here or at your chosen submission point. The exhibition will run from 15-25 November 2018 at Mall Galleries, London. Click here for more information.
1. “How Strange”, Bright Red, 2001. Copyright Tess Jaray, 2018. All rights reserved. Courtesy Karsten Schubert, London.