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Tess Jaray: Dark & Light

67 Jermyn Street

12th May – 17th June 2016

Megan Piper is proud to open her exhibition programme at 67 Jermyn Street with Dark & Light by Tess Jaray. Throughout her career, Jaray has maintained a fascination with geometry, pattern, colour and repetition. Her early works scrutinised the power of architecture on emotions and these recent works are a return to this subject. There is an inherent ambiguity in Jaray’s work, as she considers: ‘at what point does colour turn into dark, or light, where it transcends itself and becomes another state? A condition of weather perhaps, or times of day or night?’

This exhibition includes three recent triptychs and two small paintings. In Light Triptych, Blue with Dark each panel is divided into two, soft hues are bordered by a darker half – the shift is sometimes so subtle it’s not immediately clear whether the apparent darkness is in fact a shift in light. Boundaries persist but they aren’t always clear – the paintings offer surfaces in which to contemplate dark and light.

In recent years, in order to achieve a finer level of precision, Jaray has been using a computer to draw, creating the background and foreground as separate components. The background panel is painted in her chosen colour and the foreground sheet of paper is screen-printed with a single colour, before being laser-cut. Laser-cut edges give way to clean lines but the small ridge, as the paper meets the painted surface, only reveals itself when viewed closely. The paintings are like landscapes with undulating tones that are so subtle they cannot be reproduced by photography. Jaray strives for simplicity but the works are deceptively so. They encourage, demand, closer inspection.

Jaray has set herself new challenges, trying, among other things, to see how impactful her work can be on a small scale. The two Thorn paintings in this show are jewel-like – small, light and vital – brightly coloured paintings that leap off the wall. Their bold, zingy colours hold their own against the dark and light paintings.

Italian Baroque architecture has left its mark on the artist and the influence resonates in From Borromini (2015), inspired by the balustrade in the Church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, which Jaray saw on her first visit to Rome in 1961. Its rhythm echoes through the works in this exhibition – architectural resonances that are distilled to a point of geometric purity. In the triptych First City (2015) the colour shift between each panel is as subtle as the difference in the black of tarmac or the warmth of sand – when dry or after a light rain. The success of these paintings lies in their simplicity. How do we see light and dark? And how can simplicity be so arresting?

The distinctive, subtle, penetrating works in this show continue to push boundaries and exemplify Jaray’s ability to elicit emotional responses through distinct colour combinations, as she asks: ‘why is our own physical condition so much affected by our response to dark and light?’