Tess Jaray

Garden of Anna


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Not on display

Tess Jaray born 1937
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1833 × 2293 mm
Presented by Karsten Schubert 2019


Garden of Anna 1966 is a large-scale oil painting on canvas composed of a symmetrical arrangement of geometric shapes. Each of the primary shapes is demarcated with a teal-grey centre or nucleus bordered by a perimeter rim in light and dark pinks. Each having either three or four straight-edged sides, these shapes are also recognisable as triangles or quadrilaterals. Where these shapes are arranged around each other they share a teal-grey edge at their outer perimeter. The conglomeration of shapes is surrounded by six areas of light pink, which are each triangular due to how the central composition meets the perpendicular edges of the painting’s support.

The architectural interplay Jaray has set up between darker and paler colours, lines and areas, as well as in the subdividing structure of the forms and scale of the painting resembles decorative structural forms in buildings, especially the ornamental criss-cross framework of latticework in vaulted ceilings. Connected to this is the sense that such modular arrangements encourage perspectival readings in which shapes seem to be squeezed into arrangements and broader convex or concave surfaces are formed. This has been elaborated by the artist and writer Deanna Petherbridge (born 1939) who has written of Jaray’s paintings of this type that, ‘Areas seem to bend, lines between polygons can be read as projecting ribs in convoluted vaulted spaces’ (in Ashmolean Museum 1984, n.p.).

The titles of Jaray’s works throughout her career often encourage viewers to connect her configurations with architectural spaces or the relationships between forms in space. This is a tendency visible in some of her best-known works of the 1960s, such as Cupola Blue 1962 (Karsten Schubert, London), St Stephen’s Green 1964 (Karsten Schubert, London) Versailles 1966 (Government Art Collection, London) and Minuet 1966 (Museums Sheffield). The title of Garden of Anna may relate to the layout or feeling of a specific garden. It also broadly connotes a connection between architectural structures or enclosed spaces, nature and spirituality. Jaray herself has described the critical impact of a visit to Italy at the beginning of this early phase in her work. She has said:

My own uses of formal elements started in 1960, when I first travelled to Italy on a scholarship. I was completely bowled over by the great spaces of the early Renaissance buildings that I saw, the architecture of [Filippo] Brunelleschi in particular. When I returned to England I attempted, if not to replicate this, which of course can’t be done, then at least to find a way of creating pictorial space that in some way evokes comparable, parallel responses, as much as such a thing is possible in painting.
(Quoted in ‘Conversation with John Stezaker’, in Tess Jaray: Into Light, exhibition catalogue, Marlborough Fine Art, London 2017, n.p.)

Particularly noticeable with regards to Jaray’s work around 1966 is that there is a more concentrated focus on the interplay of shapes so that they are no longer so subordinate to a surrounding spatial configuration, but rather increasingly take hold of the picture plane. This relationship between form and picture surface has largely gone on to characterise Jaray’s later output, so that her treatment of space has often been discussed in terms of how her painted surfaces seem at once close and continuous with the picture surface while to some degree distant and separate from corporal experience. Of Minuet 1966 (Museums Sheffield), one of the works most comparable to Garden of Anna, the art historian Robert Kudielka has written: ‘Such a picture is like a focus in which the vastness of space is concentrated; and the flux of time halts for an instant, as if spellbound by the hieratic emblem.’ (In Graves Art Gallery 1972, n.p.).

Further reading
Tess Jaray: Paintings and Prints 1967–72, exhibition catalogue, Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield and City Art Gallery, Bristol 1972.
Tess Jaray: Prints & Drawings 1964–84, exhibition catalogue, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 1984.
Doro Globus (ed.), The Art of Tess Jaray, London 2014, illustrated p.44.

Rachel Rose Smith
Andrew Wilson
August 2018, updated April 2019

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