I once heard the author Rose Tremain talk about the importance of ‘place’ – of the profound and immediate impact on the reader at the very mention of the word ‘field’ or ‘sky’ or ‘shore’. Our lives, of late, have been defined by confinement so we shouldn’t be surprised if we now find ourselves craving nature and its wide horizons – to feel its benevolent impact on us, after so much time in which that has been denied.
David has explained to me how painting ‘en plein air’ provokes an intuitive response to what the artist sees before them – something that is not easily recaptured back in the studio. In his essay, Walking, Henry David Thoreau wrote that, ‘When a traveler asked Wordsworth’s servant to show him her master’s study, she answered, ‘Here is his library, but his study is out of doors.’
David has also told me about his days out at Amberley Wild Brooks: the changes he witnessed, week by week, hour by hour. I envy him that time and the prospect of bringing that openness – that sense of space – home with him.
At first, I was convinced that some of the appeal of David’s new collection of paintings was the fact that they were free from the presence of people. More recently, I’ve come to see how these landscapes are, in fact, inhabited. In the center of some of the larger paintings a pair of diminutive trees stand, one slightly more distinct than the other – composed, I imagine, with no more than a few strokes of a brush. Yet we pick them out; they serve as our compass.
In David’s other paintings there are more eminent trees – trees that change, like the surrounding landscape, through the seasons. But I see now that even those paintings with no trees at all are deeply inhabited – by sky, by hills, by water – and ultimately, of course, by us, the observer. David went out and observed, responded, recorded. Now we occupy that same perspective, in his stead.