Tour Header Transport, Logistics (Byland Abbey)

'Transport, Logistics (Byland Abbey)', mixed media on paper, 62x78cm, 2005

Chasing Sublime Light is an exhibition which explores my experience of travelling in the powerful mountainous landscapes of northern Britain. The work in the exhibition is a direct and vigorous response to these landscapes as they appear now, but the roots of the project are in the journeys made over two hundred years ago by artists who pioneered the discovery of this scenery. These artists included J M W Turner, Thomas Girtin and Paul Sandby, and they were travelling in search of landscapes that would revolutionise painting in the Romantic period: landscapes of the 'Sublime'. The word Sublime had a much more specific meaning in that time than it does today - it was applied to views which were awe inspiring or terrifying - and the places in Britain in which artists found these 'awful' and 'terrific' prospects were chiefly in North Wales, the North of England, particularly the Lake District, and Scotland.

I began work on this project in 2001, and my first task was to document the subjects painted by these early artistic travellers, and to research the routes that they followed. I then made a series of visits to the same places to record my responses, after two centuries, to the changes - and indeed the continuity - that I found. I took with me a 'tool kit' which corresponded to that of the eighteenth century tourists, and consisted of sketch book, water colour paints and paper, gouache and ink. I also took a camera.

The journeys were fascinating, revealing a whole spectrum of changes from wild and almost unchanged stretches of moorland and coast, to the untidy urbanisation of locations overtaken by the industrial expansion of the nineteenth century. Byland Abbey in Yorkshire, for example, shows very little change from when Thomas Girtin painted it in the 1790's, but in contrast to Girtin's day, large lorries and other traffic now speed past it on the road that skirts the Abbey ruins. In a similar manner Kirkstall Abbey was painted by Girtin, the buildings alone in a wide sweep of river valley and empty moorland. After some searching, I found the spot from which Girtin must have taken his view some two centuries ago. The Abbey, now on the outskirts of Bradford, is surrounded by busy urban roads and railway lines and an electricity pylon. High rise buildings punctuate the horizon. By contrast Ullswater in the Lake District still reveals wide sweeps of empty mountain and sky, and silvery reflections of cloud and mist that link air with water. Turner's paintings of the lake show him exploring the same Sublime combinations of silvery light and cloud, sky and reflecting water.

David Tress on the Isle of Skye

David Tress at Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye, May 2004

Gathering together the material collected on the journeys I began making a series of finished paintings and drawings in the studio. These studio works document aspects of the landscapes as they presented themselves to me on the journeys, but in addition they have much greater depth and complexity than simple records of what I observed. They are unashamedly personal responses; painted and repainted, they are explorations of my emotional and painterly responses to Chasing Sublime Light.

David Tress

Some Responses to Chasing Sublime Light

'Tress has evolved a method of drawing very much his own which results in some of the most exciting landscapes being done today.'
Andrew Lambirth, The Spectator, 26 July 2008

'David Tress describes his return to painting in 1976 as, 'truly the most radical thing I've done.''
Mary Miers, Country Life, 21 May 2008

'Tress's collage and impasto paintings......are a vibrant attempt to renew the language of landscape painting after abstract expressionism.'
Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times, 31 January / 1 February 2009

The Tour

17 March - 10 May 2008

17 May - 29 July 2008
The exhibition will be shown in two parts:
17 May - 25 June paintings of Northumber-
land, Scotland, North Yorkshire.
28 June - 29 July paintings of Cumbria, North Wales.

23 August - 12 October 2008

17 January - 18 April 2009

25 April - 30 May 2009

12 September - 17 October 2009

30 October - 24 December 2009

16 January - 21 February 2010

6 March - 17 April 2010

1 May - 13 June 2010

3 July - 29 August 2010

6 September - 17 October 2010

1 January - 6 February 2011
MOMA Wales
Y Tabernacl, Heol Penrallt,
Machynlleth SY20 8AJ
01654 703355
Monday - Saturday 10am - 4pm

Petworth House
Petworth, West Sussex GU28 0AE
01798 342207
11am - 5pm. Closed Thursday and Friday
Grounds admission £3.80/Child £1.90
Exhibition free of charge

Clwyd Theatr Cymru
Mold, Flintshire CH7 1YA
01352 756331
Monday - Saturday 10am - 10pm

Gallery Oldham
Greaves Street, Oldham OL1 1AL
0161 770 4653
Monday - Saturday 10am - 4.30pm

Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
Fitz Park, Station Road,
Keswick CA12 4NF
017687 73263
Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 4pm

Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum
Foregate Street, Worcester WR1 1DT
01905 25371
Monday - Saturday 10.30am - 4.30pm

The National Library of Wales
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3BU
01970 632800
Monday - Friday 10am - 5pm
(closed public holidays)

Oriel Ynys Môn
Rhosmeirch, Llangefni,
Anglesey, Wales LL77 7TQ
01248 724444
10.30am - 5pm daily

West Wales Arts Centre
16 West Street, Fishguard
Pembrokeshire, Wales SA65 9AE
01348 873867
Monday - Saturday 10am - 5pm

The Maclaurin Galleries
Rozelle Park, Monument Road
Ayr, Scotland KA7 4NQ
01292 443708
Monday - Saturday 10am - 5pm
Sunday 2pm - 5pm

Coach House Gallery
Astley Hall Museum and Art Gallery
Astley Park, Chorley
Lancashire PR7 1NP
01257 515921
Saturday, Sunday 12 noon - 4.30 pm

The Marble Hall, Stowe School
Stowe, Buckingham MK18 5EH
01280 818000/818241
Mon - Fri, Sat & Sun 9am - 6pm

The exhibition will also be open and
viewable by arrangement from
1 November to 11 December.

Royal Cambrian Academy
Crown Lane, Conwy LL32 8AN
01492 5934413

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