David Treloar (1976-present) RA is a British artist and educator living and working in London. He studied fine art painting at Wimbledon School of Art and fine art at the Royal Academy between 2003 and 2006. Treloar has exhibited work nationally and painted actor Asa Butterfield in episode 1 of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year (2020). He currently teaches art in London. His work has included design objects, abstract sculpture and painting in various media. Examples of his practice can be viewed on social media (see Treloar, 2022) and in an article about his practice for a special addition (on portraiture) for Trebuchet Magazine (Eden, 2019). Engaging with Armitage’s (2007) translation Treloar has created a series of images that explore the undergrowth and wild woodlands of the text, presenting physical and psychic spaces.
I am trying to draw parts of a forest that look difficult to navigate for humans, nature that despite its beauty is inhospitable. The overwhelming dead-end feel I am seeking means that the landscape/image has no focal point. I feel a focal point would add hope or a romantic feel to the work that I am trying to avoid (see Treloar, 2022).
Those undergrowth images communicate the dense, unsettling aspects of going into (being drawn to?) significantly hostile space. They are painterly and layered with effective areas of penetrating light. The canopies and groves described are intriguing and work well with the personal flashes of memory interlaced with themes of the text. For example, Looking Out for Others (2020), painted during the lockdown of the same year with obvious desperate longing, shows the undergrowth giving way to contemporary rooftops that echo the moment when Gawain, exhausted finds castle Hautdesert. Again in the ghostly image of Gringolet (Gawain’s horse) drawing on personal experience was important. Treloar commented regarding a trip to Cornwall ‘I saw the horse with a horsefly hood on smell me on the wind. We had a stand-off where this great beast was nervously pawing the ground and at the mercy of the unknown. Seeing the horse in that mental space reflecting back my COVID nightmare made me think about Sir Gawain and his confrontation with death’ (Treloar in correspondence with the author 2022). The effect is a suggestion of the rudderless horse panicking without its rider, prompting questions from the onlooker: was Gawain thrown? Why is the animal scared?
Treloar also created a close-cropped fittingly green image of the exchange of gifts, where Gawain must offer what he has won to Lord Bertilak (in his case a secret kiss from the Lords wife). There is a deliberate ambiguity here: is this Gawain with Bertilak, or the Lady? 'The thumb on the cheek is purposely phallic, urgent and pressing, and also purposefully not penetrating…lust/polite' (Treloar in correspondence with the author). The faces appear to merge with a suggestive red thumbprint over the lips of the figures. In all of Treloar’s images making process is foregrounded with combinations of loose and tighter paint handling. He reflects on the themes and their lasting effect below.
I think that after trying to make paintings in response to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, whenever I paint from the landscape there is a contemplation (of the worth of art, the act of making, me against time and space) and a battle both with nature and creating something worthwhile. They are then psychological spaces and a tangle of ideas and intentions.
I really enjoyed this fight…I pitched my chair and easel in a stream and allowed the freezing current to chill my bare feet whilst I painted. If I had time and materials I would happily have made many iterations until I solved it (whatever “it” is!) (see Treloar, 2022).
Armitage, S. (2007) Sir Gawain and the green knight. Faber and Faber.
Eden, M. (2019) Spiralling Intentionally Towards Figuration. Trebuchet [Magazine], Portraits, 7:88-97 , ISSN1753-030X07.
Treloar, D. (2022) Instagram. [online] Instagram.com. Available at: <https://www.instagram.com/treloar.david/?hl=en> [Accessed 26 May 2022].