albertz benda is pleased to present Tess Jaray: The Light Surrounded, the artist's first solo show in New York, on view from April 20 to May 25, 2017. Featuring paintings from 2001 to 2012, this recent body of work reflects the artist's quest to distill her compositions to a degree of geometric purity. Through her mastery of line, color, and pattern, Jaray's work expresses the intangible spaces that exist between forms and interior and exterior worlds, using repetition as a means to artistic originality and personal discovery. According to Jaray, "manipulating simplified colors and shapes on a canvas shifts them and changes them and moves them until something happens - something asserts itself, asks to be born... and at its point of completion, there seems to be no space between the image and myself."
Jaray has always been fascinated by space and the relationship between an image and its surroundings. Growing up in the English countryside, she first began to explore the 'geometry of nature' in drawings of fields and hedges. In her early twenties, during a four-month traveling scholarship to Rome, Florence, Siena, and Venice, she experienced the impact of early Renaissance painting which left her with an enduring appreciation for the interaction between color and light. Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446), the Florentine architect had an especially profound impact on Jaray, as his concern with space, pattern and design in structures taught her to see that architecture and painting did not have to be distinct disciplines.
The interplay of surface and depth, architectural decoration and perspectival space were brought together in diamonds, squares, parallelograms, rectangles, and triangles. Jaray then started arranging patterns of varying complexity; repeating, varying, and mirroring them. This continuous process of refinement through drawing resulted in a gradual simplification of patterns. This breakthrough in her practice allowed her to focus on just the essentials, picking out and concentrating on small geometric elements of her earlier paintings. In subsequent decades, Jaray was exploring how she could hold forms in space rather than creating space. The works were comprised of basic geometric shapes that seemed to be influenced by an invisible force, with playful and visually challenging elements as a byproduct of experiments with space and shape.
Over the past twenty years, Jaray has begun to question perspective's inevitable linear progression from the space of the viewer to the vanishing point. Forms are now suspended in a space that is neither foreground nor background, but a fusing of the two. Spatial ambiguity causes the colors on the canvas to exist in a state of optical flux. The shapes in works such as How Strange - Bright Red (2002) and Window Turquoise (2008) jostle with each other, shifting between foreground and background, seemingly at once solid and insubstantial. Like mirrors, the colored planes reflect and return the viewer's gaze.
Jaray's recent use of laser cutting the edges of her paintings intends to minimize the evidence of the artist's hand. As she explains "there's still the mystery of how the color at the edge of an area affects the center...I see this as being somehow analogous to the written expression of something that is apparently retrieved before it disappears into the unconscious, something at the edge of thought, something that most of us can't quite put our finger on until it's done for us, as in a great poem."