on the artist
the Academie Goncourt, France
would like to be able to say that I discovered Arthur Tress. But after
he could more justifiably claim that he discovered me.
all began approximately two years ago, just a short time after the publication
my book »The Ogre« in the United States. I received a letter
from this un-
person. »Having read your book,« he said, »I think that
you will like my
Following that came a package of photographs. I was shocked,
and prodigiously interested.
first impression and that goes a long way, I was struck by how in a series
pictures that flows from one inspirational source each image is so completely
There is never any repetition and nowhere is there evidence of the
drying up. While each photograph, itself a vein, is extinguished, it seems,
that single picture, the flow of genius is contained in the very next.
time all his works are inhabited by the same spirit, and they all deal
same theme. Basically it's always the same but on the surface, the new-
is always total and absolute. Each time we begin over again. That is the
of having a »vision«.
then is this unique theme that we find repeated in totally unexpected forms
image to image? Let us not delude ourselves into thinking that we will
to define this in a definitive and exhaustive fashion. We won't be able
simply because Arthur Tress is a true creator. One imprisons a formula,
an ideology, an idea only by the gush of creation. Paul Valery: »If
could be, a work of art would necessarily disappear when put fac
face with it the way it does when faced with its own essence«. Therefore
esthetic cannot be, let's attempt several approaches - five approaches
the mystery of Arthur Tress of the 1000 faces.
The anguish of being the prisoner of a mass. A web of strings or
a funnel, a mask, an envelope made of some sort of plastic material, a
of pickles, a garbage can, a sewer hole, an elevator, a water main. The
of being crushed by a ball, a mechanical horse, etc.
are classic nightmare themes, but Arthur Tress' art consists in giving
credibility by placing them in a totally realistic context. He does not
for the enchantment part of the nightmare which normally allows it to be
images force us to believe what they are relating to us. lt can be added
is greatly aided by the environment that the United States puts at his
can hardly imagine these images in Europe. But does one ever know for
with this devil of a man?
Its cadaverous profile overshadows more than one of these stage pro-
There is even within Arthur Tress an ascent towards necrophilia: let
follow it but ascend it! The cadaver is passivity and therefore its obscenity
Child. Is the privileged witness. Witness: One who sees, who
remembers. But also: object of proof, undergoing tests, corpus delicti.
the corpus delicti, the body of a child is the most charming. The child
object of sadism and necrophilia. But he is also hope, because per-
tomorrow, baving become strong, he will take revenge.
In more than one work by Arthur Tress, beyond the oppression,
horizon opens, a gaping door, a staircase flying upwards toward the sky.
freeing is not accessible to the oppressed. Yet it is there, it haunts
Photographers generally have a fundamental idea of reality.
and people are presented in their naive spontaneity. The »contrivanc«
a terrible sin that he conceals as best he can, that he denies madly.
Tress worries about »ethics« as though it was bad luck. He
all wood with perfect tranquility of the soul, taking from stores, museums
theatre props - or simply from his pockets which hold all the accessories
his pbotography needs, from the stuffed rat to the Tyrolienne pipe as well
the monstrance, the halbert or the hernia belt. With anyone else a similar
would lead to the breaking down of the image. We would laugh or
our shoulders. Here it works. Everything works. Arthur Tress always
the conditions of a general complicity. That of the people being photo-
that of the objects, that of the landscapes, and ours, on top of every-
met Arthur Tress long after I had lived with his pictures. I was a little
imagined a rough and boorish man, perhaps even a little dirty, to whom
indulge everything for the sake of his genius. Instead I saw arrive a young
who was frail and timid, worried on every side, concealing a wounded look
a theological student's glasses. But inside his photographer's bag was
medallion with a portrait of Franz Kafka. There without doubt is the most
clue to the Tress mystery.
from L'Oeil by Evelyne Jesenof]