Towards Crib Goch, 1988

David Tress

English ( b.1955 )

Towards Crib Goch, 1988

  • Watercolour
  • Signed & dated lower left

Image size 20.1 inches x 29.1 inches ( 51cm x 74cm )
Frame size 33.1 inches x 41.7 inches ( 84cm x 106cm )

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David Tress is one of Britain’s foremost landscape painters; his work gets better and better. He has evolved a method of drawing very much his own that results in some of the most exciting landscapes being done today. Emotion is balanced by thought and his elemental attack on the paper is checked by the delicacies of touch and shading.

David Tress was born in Wembly, northwest London in 1955 and grew up there, showing an early interest in painting, drawing and natural history. After studying sciences at A level he changed direction and completed a Foundation course at Harrow College of Art. He then went to Trent Polytechnic, now Trent University, because Victor Burgin was a tutor there. He graduated in Fine Art, having experimented with all the fashionable enthusiasms of the time.

In 1976 Tress went to Pembrokeshire with a friend on a chance visit, camping and hiking and decided to stay. He has lived there ever since, now with his wife Marijke Tress-Braaksma, who is also an artist.

In his early years in Wales Tress found himself in impecunious obscurity, and he taught himself, in virtual isolation from the art world. He built up the exceptional skills and developed the insights that make him an artist of such stature today. From the beginning of the eighties he was able to make a living from his art, and he also taught the history of art part-time in the Extra-Mural Department of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth.

It is difficult to put a label on Tress’s work, as his style has developed over the years, and much of his work defies classification. While he was at Trent, he became involved with experiments in conceptual and performance art, but later came to question the assumptions of modernism. He has been called a Romantic, and a Neo-Romantic, a mixture of Impressionist and post-Abstract Expressionist, a traditionalist and a modernist. He is all of these and yet none exclusively. He is certainly a representational painter, but not a topographical realist. He takes inspiration from the great traditions of western art, but what shines through is always his own emotional response to the subject.

“The thing that’s driven me always is gut feeling,” he says,

Tress starts most of his works out in the landscape, often in rough weather. The real work then takes place in the studio, where he constantly makes and remakes an image, either flat on a table, or occasionally for bigger pieces, on the floor. He uses all sorts of radical techniques, like applying torn and crumpled canvas or paper to the surface of his paintings and then painting over them until the two-dimensional begins to break out into three. His works are thus vigorously constructed and have great poignancy, and dramatic colours. He engages with his subjects with a real passion and knowledge, which enriches our own experience of his work.

As well as Wales, his subjects include landscapes in Scotland, the Lake District, Ireland and southern France, along with cityscapes of London.

He was one of 48 British artists and designers commissioned by the Royal Mail for the Millennium stamp series. His design (, issued in September 1999 as part of a set called The Farmers’ Tale, depicted open-field farming at Laxton near Newark, Nottinghamshire. It was also Royal Mail’s contribution to that year’s Europa postage stamp issue on the theme of Parks and Reserves.
He was the recipient of the 2013 Glyndŵr Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Wales.

Tress has exhibited in Wales, England, Ireland, France, Holland and America. Two of his major projects were Landmarks, shown in the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath in 2011, which comprised paintings and graphite drawings from the city of Bath and its surrounding landscape, and his Chasing Sublime Project, which he started in 2001. This involved him retracing the artistic tours of the 18th century artists such as Girtin and Turner in north Wales and England. Retracing their journeys, he placed himself wherever possible in the same spot from which they had drawn or painted a scene, and recorded it as it appears now, In some cases the landscape was virtually unchanged after two centuries, in others car parks commercialism and traffic had encroached ineluctably on a previously unspoilt vista. The project was of historical and sociological as well as artistic interest, and toured around Britain over two years, half of it showing at Petworth House, Sussex.

Today Tress has works in public collections including The National Museum of Wales, The Contemporary Art Society for Wales, The National Library of Wales, The Guildhall Gallery of London and Pallant House Gallery, Chichester.

It has been said of Tress that he goes more for the spirit, or, one might say, the soul of his subject. And this is something which is always tugging him towards abstraction. Though appearances are always his starting-point, what he is finally painting is not the appearance, but the emotion that it engenders in him.