Daniel Preece, now 50, is a painter of landscape, though cityscape is perhaps the more particular and helpful word. Born and bred in London, where until recently he has always lived, it is local rather than tourist London, that he has made his essential subject. He finds in the modest and familiar view, quite often scruffy and down-at-heel and none the worse for that, so much that is remarkable, and beautiful.

And new too, for the unnoticed, the unlooked-for, forgotten or neglected, hidden in plain sight, come always as a surprise, as though seen for the first time. And so, as he hopes we will, we come away from his paintings with eyes refreshed, and perhaps a little wider open, to look again with a closer curiosity at the world immediately about us, and find our Preeces for ourselves in that deserted street, the house on the corner, or the block of flats glimpsed in the distance above the roofs.

But these paintings of his are rather more than mere exercises in local record, let alone exact description. For, immediately convincing as they are in the ostensible subject, they are transformations and inventions nevertheless, stimulated in the first instance by the visual moment, but taken then to formal and pictorial resolution as paintings, things apart, each worked through on its own terms.

For there they are, on the one hand images conjuring up light and form and space to intrigue the mind and delight the eye: and on the other, just stuff, things of paint and oil laid on a flat surface. And in between? Smoke and mirrors – which is the wonder of it all. A painting can only be itself, after all, and while, like the camera, it may seem to lie, if true to itself it is never dishonest, the lie not one of deception but only to be taken as such if in mistaken expectation on our part of a promise never made.

The artist owes no duty to us, but only to the work, in seeking to get it right on its own terms, in so far as is ever possible – for it seldom turns out as first intended. Indeed it is the strangest thing, yet common to all the Arts, that the work so often moves on to its resolution and final state seemingly of itself, with the artist its mere agent, all but standing by and watching, and in the end as surprised as we.

And so it is with Dan Preece. These are his paintings, not ours: yet we share in his surprise and pleasure, which all true painters know, on finding at last how all the building blocks of composition have finally fallen into place under his hand, all loose ends tied up, colour and tone singing happily together. Wonderful.


William has been writing about Art since the late 1960s, first as London Correspondent of Art & Artists, and since 1974, as an art critic for the Financial Times (it’s principal art critic 1978-2004). He has contributed to many other publications, to innumerable exhibition catalogues, and has published several books – on Henry Moore, John Houston, Tai-Shan Schierenberg, and Fashion Drawing in Vogue, among them. He was sole curator of the first British Art Show (for the Arts Council 1979), curated an Elizabeth Blackadder retrospective (for the Scottish Arts Council 1981), and has been variously involved in many other exhibitions. He has served on many exhibition and competition selection panels, including the John Moores, the Portrait Award, the Discerning Eye, The Treadneedle Prize and, over many years, the Hunting Prizes.

He trained at Wimbledon School of Art (1959-63) and gained his teaching certificate at Brighton College of Art (1963-64)and has always had a parallel career as a painter. View his still lifes and collages HERE.