Moving beyond the Headlines; Robust and Powerful, David Tress' Landscape Paintings Reflect His Excitement about His Natural Surroundings. He Tells Jenny White about His Ongoing Quest to Capture These Feelings on Paper - and Why He Avoids Trying Anything New Just to Create a Stir

Article excerpt

RIPPED and scored and spattered with paint, David Tress' paintings have a visceral quality, yet they also contain areas of fine detail.

Keen draughtsmanship glints through the expressionistic sweeps of colour, often helping to define a specific location.

Many of these will be familiar to fans of Tress' work; his native Pembrokeshire features strongly in his new show, from St Non's to Pen Caer near Fishguard. But Tress also loves to travel, keeping his vision fresh with trips to other parts of the UK.

"You've got to keep moving, you have to keep feeding new ideas in, otherwise it's dangerous," he says. "One of the reasons I don't paint Pembrokeshire all the time is that if I did it could become stale, so you have to keep looking, travelling elsewhere."

'Elsewhere' for this show includes Glastonbury, Romney Marsh, Suffolk and Dorset.

Frequently the focus of his attention is a building; small country churches are a particular favourite, because of their close relationship with the surrounding landscape.

"I'm interested in the way these buildings have literally grown out of the land - they're built from the land around them," he says. "If you go to Norfolk, you'll find churches with round flint towers and thatched roofs, whereas in South Wales there's stone with slate - so they respond to the land around them in a physical way and they're a spiritual response to the landscape.

"That link, that relationship, has always fascinated me."

Tress' quest for the spiritual within the landscape links to many of the artists who have inspired him over the years; Neo-Romantics such as Graham Sutherland, John Piper and John Craxton, and the original Romantics - people like Turner, whose interest in 'sublime' scenery took him all over Britain.

Tress is the first to admit that he has steered an unfashionable course, following his gut instinct even when it led him against the currents of the contemporary art world.

"I was a student in the 1970s and was initially interested in Abstract Expressionism - people like Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, throwing and dribbling paint - you can still see the profound effect that had on me in the way I handle the paint today.

"But also it was the beginning of conceptual art, and I knew in a gut sense that I would have problems with the whole emphasis to the point of absurdity on simply doing something different or new. …