It’s a bold move by Megan Piper to relaunch her exhibition programme in London’s St James’s with just five strict, exacting abstracts by Tess Jaray – they're not for those with softer, more painterly tastes. Yet, although only 31, Piper is bold. A committed admirer of Jaray’s work, she is also grateful for the 78 year old artist’s continuing support over the past few years.
Inspired by an exhibition at Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery, Piper is specifically interested in the work of older artists. Aged just 27, she was motivated to open The Piper Gallery in Fitzrovia in June 2012. Refreshingly, in a world that favours the young and the new, it concentrated on artists with careers of four decades or more. However, the gallery was forced to close at the end of 2013 when the backer pulled out. Undeterred, Piper has operated without a physical space until relaunching her exhibition programme with five Piper Gallery artists, including Jaray, in the modest new gallery.
Jaray’s career spans over 50 years and her work has the confident restraint that comes from both prolonged practice and investigations into geometry, colour, pattern and repetition. It’s a modest show; just three recent ‘dark and light’ triptychs punctuated by two small but intensely coloured Thorn paintings, in which Jaray has challenged herself to see how much of a punch a small painting can pack.
'They're such strong, deceptively simple works and we've had a number of people who remember her work from the 1960s and 70s and enjoy the recent works in this context,' says Piper.
Some abstracts can tip over into being rather loud and shouty. But Jaray’s works are quietly sophisticated; willing the viewer to approach them, to peer closely. Only then do the etched lines and subtle yet distinct differences in surface texture start to reveal themselves.
'The response to the launch has been overwhelmingly positive, both to Tess' paintings and also to the contrast of a contemporary space, nestled in the downstairs of an antiquarian dealers, Harris Lindsay,' says Piper, 'People like the juxtaposition of antiques and contemporary art.'
Tess Jaray has also curated a group show, 'The Edge of Printing', at the nearby Royal Academy of Arts (on view until 23 October) and her public art is also the subject of a new book, Desire Lines: The Public Art of Tess Jaray, published by Ridinghouse at the end of June.
Piper has already plotted her exhibition program for the rest of the year. On view will be the work of sculptor and draughtsman Edward Allington (29 June–29 July); the late painter Francis West (14 September–21 October); sculptor Paul de Monchaux (2 November–2 December); and painter Neil Stokoe (from 11 January–17 February next year).