Studio Dabbeni presents “David Tremlett - Works on Paper and the Wall”, a personal exhibition by the English artist David Tremlett (born in 1945 in St. Austell, in Cornwall, he lives and works in Bovingdon Herts, near London).

The artist found himself working among the bare, silent, architectural ruins of Mjimwema, in Tanzania; on shreds of eroded walls scorched by the sun. Upon these ruined walls, characterised by gashes, Tremlett drew geometric figures that seem to echo the perimetrical lines of the gashes themselves. Then the artist left, leaving only his work as testimony to his presence there.

Unconcerned about leaving his work behind, the artist makes Wall Drawings in situ – on the walls of public and private exhibition spaces or in the places he has made acquaintance with during his travels. It seems that when the artist chooses to intervene upon a specific wall he wants to lay claim to it, even if for only an instant, with no fears about abandoning it later. 

Pastel is the medium he chooses: “Undoubtedly, one of the reasons for this is the joy of applying pigment to a surface and the use of my hands. Drawing, in my opinion, must be done by hand, and not with a paintbrush. I am a sculptor-draughtsman (he studied in Birmingham, in the sculpture department) and I always feel the need to work with my hands. The second reason is that when travelling I only want to carry a small case, for my clothes, a video camera, and a notebook; as for colours, I always want to bring pastels. Not many are needed to cover a large surface: this is what is meant by economy, or travelling light”. What’s more, the artist points out, “light baggage” also means more intellectual freedom. “It became much more interesting to make drawings directly on the wall and because the pastel box was easily transportable, the pastel became more and more important, thus becoming one of my main tools”, he adds.

At the base of Tremlett’s work, since the beginning, lays the experience of travelling, which he has always perceived in its existential dimension. The revelations that derive from his intensely lived trips become the material for his works, becoming literally transferred into them. The artist delineates large geometrical shapes on the wall, and extensive fields of colour with the technique of spreading the pastel with the palm of his hand, making it penetrate into the wall, to create an illusion of thickness that confers an almost sculptural quality. All of this takes place through a gesture that seems like a caress.  

Experiences in Africa, Central America, Oceania, and Australia (where his parents went to live when the artist was still a boy) and contact with non-Europeans, were instrumental in maturing his sensitivity. Travel, for the artist, has always been a completely absorbing experience, even when only a minimal trace of it remains in the drawing, just one sign that has been extracted from this intimate diary.

On the ground floor of Studio Dabbeni the artist will show some large drawings on paper, some of his most recent works, in which he relates, through the use of pastels, his personal visions of places once again. And, on the upper floor of the gallery, the artist has made five new Wall Drawings, very different from each other, each a separate work. In two of them he returns to his use of black graphite grease – a material he used back in 1969 in his work “I see a lot of Grease in it” and, recently juxtaposed with pastel in “Disegno retrospettivo” (Retrospective Drawing), a Wall Drawing made on three walls of the main hall at the Centro Pecci in Prato for the retrospective exhibition dedicated to the artist. In one of the works made in the gallery, the artist solves the problem posed by a space between two doors by adopting the solution of continuity. 

The surfaces Tremlett works on seem almost vibratory, in the subtle shades that are the result of the act expressed by the strength of the fingers as they spread the pastel, and also, in the extreme delicacy that is implicit in the gesture itself. 

In a conversation with Doris von Drathen, Tremlett explained how what is behind his work, which corresponds with his attempt to “reduce things to the minimum” (a prerequisite common to Minimalism and Conceptualism, both of which were important, historically, in his formation) there is also, in reality, “a world of experiences. They can come from foreign countries, or the purity of African shapes, the beauty of Italian churches, from people I have met… It is like composing music or writing: at a certain point it flows out of you and transports you. The raw material is your history”.

Within Studio Dabbeni’s spaces, the observer truly experiences the sensation of being in a landscape that is physical and interior, like being in Mjimwema, in front of the whitewashed, sun-baked walls where Tremlett has drawn his geometric designs.