Reviews Header

Extracts from Reviews

[David Tress] went to Trent [Polytechnic] because Victor Burgin was a tutor there, and experimented with all the fashionable enthusiasms, but became disenchanted. 'Basically, I realised eventually that I wanted to paint. There
has got to be an honesty in what you do that makes all theory irrelevant.'

Robert Macdonald, Modern Painters, Summer 1997

Tress is an emotional painter, depicting states of mind as much as specific places, recalled not necessarily in tranquillity. His drawings are often seared
and scraped, the thick paper scored through and patched over and reworked, looking as though violence has been visited upon them in the artist's determination to express his understanding of their significance and meaning.

Andrew Lambirth, The Spectator, 22 January 2005

If the landscape-painter label summons up expectations of something dainty, precise and traditional, then a rude awakening is in order. Tress is above all a modern painter, post-Abstract Expressionism and ready to use all sorts of techniques like applying torn and crumbling canvas or paper to the surface of his paintings and then painting over them.

John Russell Taylor, The Times, 2 February 2005

…to take up landscape painting… in rural Wales in the late twentieth century might have been regarded as, at best, unfashionable and at worst, retrograde. It is Tress's achievement that he has remained steadfastly unfettered by such short-term intellectual fashion and has, instead, had the courage to follow instinctively his creative impulses.

David Moore, Planet. The Welsh Internationalist, June/July 2008

The wonderful freshness and vigour, combined with a sense of the ancient and enduring, is characteristic of Tress's personal vision… 'art', says Peter Abbs, 'involves a sensuous embodiment. It is an intensely physical activity - an erotic activity - working towards the spirit, towards value.' The implication, as we
see with Tress, is that his whole person is involved in the act of painting. The viewer is consequently awakened to the life in things, and experiences landscapes infused with spirit.

Jeremy Hooker, Resurgence Magazine web article, January 2009

… there are several recent paintings that explicitly deal with flash storms by apparently tearing a fundamentally tranquil landscape apart with downward flashes or slashes of white or blue slanting dramatically across the composition. Sometimes, again, Tress loves to create a turbulent effect by folding or collaging the heavy handmade papers on which most of his works are painted to create an almost sculptural surface.

John Russell Taylor, The Times, 9 June 2012

Books and Catalogues

Rapid communication systems have changed our lives, but not, I think our
need of nature. The experience of it continues to inspire artists as diverse as
Bridget Riley, David Hockney and Richard Long. And if there are aspects of today's culture ('Thrillingly heartless,' says Martin Amis of the writer Will Self) that seem deliberately to promote an absence of meaning, landscape art continues to have a tremendous resonance, perhaps because it comes
freighted with tradition yet is also capable of touching our concerns for the earth’s future. To draw or paint the land is today one of the most radical
things an artist can do.

Exhibition catalogue 'David Tress', introduction by Frances Spalding, West
Wales Arts Centre, 1997

while earlier writers on his work… have, quite correctly, cited his youthful interests in Abstract Expressionism and Performance Art as holding the key to the boldness and freedom of attitude of this painting there is, still, something initially more puzzling and more mysterious about his artistic make up, that
this suggestion does not quite answer. It starts from the man, and the artist
himself, and the sense of physical and emotional solitariness with which he seems, almost deliberately, to surround himself…. This suggests a deeply felt need to keep quietly concentrated and focussed on what he is doing that the distractions of bigger artistic centres would tend to dissipate.

Exhibition catalogue 'David Tress', introduction by Nicholas Usherwood, West Wales Arts Centre, 2000.

an emotional response is an inseparable part of the decisions and perceptions that go into the making of any painting. Tress has always been interested in countryside lore, as well as celebrations like harvest festivals and bringing
trees inside at Christmas. They all relate to the earth and the seasons, and
much of the imagery straddles both the pagan and Christian world. Although
he follows no religion, he is attracted by the atmosphere of humbler rural churches, especially those with Romanesque carvings.

Monograph 'David Tress' by Clare Rendell with an introduction by John Russell Taylor, Gomer Press, 2002.

Tress portrays the face of nature, its timelessness and apparent immutability.
He has a profound awareness of the past, and this is evident in the treatment
of his subject. The work is moody visceral but also thoughtful. Tress is drawn
to a sense of threshold: those places where the fields meet the crags or the
moors, or where the land meets the sea. Situations of most drama. He
captures the energy of the seasons and the suddenness of their arrival and change. Sometimes he allows visible a horizon line, at others he goes deep
into detail; sometimes both. A dark tangle of foliage, mysterious with lights
and shadows, is endlessly suggestive in its references.

Exhibition catalogue 'David Tress Lluniadau Drawings', introduction by Andrew Lambirth, West Wales Arts Centre, 2003.

When out in the landscape, painting perhaps in Scotland or Wales, and a slash of sun pierces the rain clouds, Tress is excited by the visual drama of the scene, by the look of the thing (light, colour, translation of form) and he responds to this - to the essentially visual. Of course he is also aware that what he has painted partakes of an existing tradition - the Romantic tradition of painting in this country - but it has never been his intention to make Romantic art. Tress sets out simply to make paintings of landscape.

Andrew Lambirth, introduction to the exhibition catalogue 'David Tress. In Search of the Sublime', Messum's, 2012.

back to top…