My epiphany: Tess Jaray

Tess Jaray


“… we were taken out into the streets with our drawing tutor and I drew a row of trees into my sketch-book, the tutor was scathing: you are only looking at the trees. What about the spaces in between? You wouldn’t even see the trees if they weren’t framed with space. And look, he said, the spaces in between also have shapes – imagine the trees as the edges of the picture, and framing only the space. You still have a shape. Perhaps even more interesting than the trees themselves. Well, I’ve forgotten his name… but I owe him much.”
Tess Jaray, in an interview with ‘RA Magazine’ [Spring 2014]

Jaray is talking about an epiphany, a revelation, that lead her to consider the role of space in art. I first read this article as research for Justine Tree, the artist character in Connectedness. Jaray is an artist, but it got me thinking about my epiphanies about writing.

I think the novel which has had the most influence for me in terms of structure and how to tell a time-slip narrative, is AS Byatt’s Possession [this is my much read copy below]. Booker Prize winner in 1990, Possession tells the story of Victorian poet Randoph Henry Ash and his relationship with fellow poet Christabel La Motte, and modern-day academicians Roland Michell and Maud Bailey. Tess JarayThe interweaving of the two narratives plus the unveiling of clues and red herrings, make the plotting almost like a crime novel. This is a literary novel, but AS Byatt keeps the reader turning the pages. The novel still fascinates me today, and is probably the novel I most often re-read. It was also made into a film starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart as the modern scholars, Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle as the Victorian poets [below]. Tess JarayHave you had an epiphany about your writing?

To read the RA Magazine article in full, click here for the Royal Academy of Arts website.
Click here for Tess Jaray’s website.
For a quick BBC guide to Tess Jaray’s paintings, click here.
Read this interview by Philip Hensher with AS Byatt, published in The Paris Review.

Tess Jaray


‘Possession’ by AS Byatt [UK: Vintage] Buy here

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Epiphanies: in art & #writing via @SandraDanby