b. 1931, United Kingdom

Tess Jaray Biography

British painter and printmaker Tess Jaray relieves hard-edged abstraction of detachment, rendering soft architectural dilutions over a career spanning five decades.

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Early Life

Born in Vienna, Tess Jaray spent her childhood in rural Worcestershire, England, where her family immigrated in 1938 following Germany's annexation of Austria. As a child, Jaray would explore the countryside and returned in the evenings to sketch the landscapes from memory.

Jaray's unconventional family—with her inventor father, artist mother, art collector grandfather, and gallerist aunt, who championed the German Expressionists in London—would nurture the painter's early interests, which would always place art with nature, alongside freedom and order.

Encounters

Jaray left home at 16 to study painting at Saint Martin's School of Art London (1954–1957). She then attended the Slade School of Fine Art (1957–1960), experimenting with abstract expressionist techniques. As influences, Jaray notes the works of symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, Viennese and Italian architecture, and early Renaissance painting.

Following her graduation, Jaray was offered two travelling scholarships. In 1960, Jaray left for Italy, where she encountered Renaissance architecture. Jaray's second scholarship brought her to Paris the following year, where she worked in the etching studio of Stanley William Hayter.

Tess Jaray Artworks

Abstracting Architecture

Throughout Jaray's work, architectural structures are compressed into simple patterns. Space is flattened and stretched using geometry, colours, and shapes, replicating the physical encounter with place.

Ceiling Geographies

Jaray's early paintings are inspired by Renaissance architecture, and in particular its ceilings and domes. Depicting arched patterns against subtle shades, the paintings are often created in pairs, revisiting a single idea through opposition.

Structural paintings like Cupola Green (1963), set against a dark blue that incites reverence, retain historical motifs despite exuding an uninhibited expansiveness. In the picture, a bright turquoise arch stands out against the ceiling's curvature, hinting at a portal in space.

Process

Jaray's paintings begin as preparatory sketches, where she experiments with a range of geometric forms before translating them to a large scale. Patterns are mapped out with masking tape to create a seamless finish, and high-contrast colours are selected to form vibrant backdrops, bringing to life otherwise simple shapes.

Public Commissions

Jaray has completed a number of large-scale commissions in public spaces, starting in the 1980's. Often, these projects not only involve making the artwork, but redesigning the surrounding environment to create encompassing spaces.

Amongst Jaray's public projects is her 1991 commission for the Arts Council of Great Britain's rooftop terrace, when she paved the fifth-floor roofscape with Kirkstone Slate and Spanish stone, incorporating elements of architectural, ecclesiastic, and Islamic motifs.

Teaching and Writing

From 1964 to 1968, Jaray taught at Hornsey College of Art, and then at the Slade School of Art, where she taught for three decades. A widely published writer, essayist, and contributor to BBC Radio 3's 'The Essay', the artist often collaborates with artists and writers to produce books and exhibitions. A collection of essays titled Painting: Mysteries and Confessions, was published in 2012.

Awards and Accolades

Jaray is a Royal Academician (2010), Reader Emeritus at the Slade School of Fine Art (1999), and an Honorary Fellow at the Royal Institute for British Architects (1995).

Exhibitions

Tess Jaray's work has exhibited internationally across Europe, Asia, the Americas, and the United Kingdom.

Select solo exhibitions include Vienna Secession (2021), New Art Centre, Salisbury (2021); Karsten Schubert, Vienna (2019); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2019); Marc Straus, New York (2019); Exile Gallery, Berlin (2018); The Serpentine Gallery, London (1988); Whitechapel Gallery, London (1973); and Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh (1967).

Selected group exhibitions include Karsten Schubert, London (2020); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2019, 2018, 2017); Saatchi Gallery, London (2018); Barbican Art Gallery, London (1993,1988); Peterborough Art Museum and Gallery (1989); Tate Gallery, London (1977, 1967); National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (1968); Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura, Mexico City (1968); and Moderna Museet, Stockholm (1965).

Website

Tess Jaray's website can be found here, her Instagram here.

Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2021

Tess Jaray Featured Artworks

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Solitude VI by Tess Jaray contemporary artwork painting
Tess Jaray Solitude VI, 2021 Acrylic on canvas
105 x 91 cm
Sold
Karsten Schubert London
Solitude IV by Tess Jaray contemporary artwork painting
Tess Jaray Solitude IV, 2021 Acrylic on canvas
110 x 90 cm
Karsten Schubert London Contact Gallery
Out of Solitude by Tess Jaray contemporary artwork painting
Tess Jaray Out of Solitude, 2020 Acrylic on canvas
105 x 91 cm
Sold
Karsten Schubert London
After Solitude by Tess Jaray contemporary artwork painting
Tess Jaray After Solitude, 2021 Acrylic on canvas
142 x 142 cm
Karsten Schubert London Contact Gallery
After Solitude II by Tess Jaray contemporary artwork painting
Tess Jaray After Solitude II, 2021 Acrylic on canvas
110 x 136 cm
Karsten Schubert London Contact Gallery
Solitude V by Tess Jaray contemporary artwork painting
Tess Jaray Solitude V, 2021 Acrylic on canvas
110 x 91 cm
Karsten Schubert London Contact Gallery
Towards Tower series by Tess Jaray contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Tess Jaray Towards "Tower" series, 1980 Pencil on graph paper
41.9 x 59.3 cm
Karsten Schubert London Contact Gallery
Study for 'Always Now' by Tess Jaray contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Tess Jaray Study for 'Always Now', 1981 Pencil on graph paper
41.4 x 57.5 cm
Karsten Schubert London Contact Gallery

Tess Jaray Recent Exhibitions

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