David Tycho

David Tycho head shot

David Tycho was born in Vancouver in 1959. He studied painting under renowned artist Gordon Smith at the University of British Columbia, where in 1983 David received a degree in visual arts education. After working through a number of Modernist styles, he arrived at his personal interpretation of figurative expressionism, which remained his focus until moving to Asia in 1984.

In Japan, David was particularly intrigued by the calligraphy of Zen monks, whose fluid, gestural brushwork often rendered the characters illegible, and ultimately abstract. At the same time, he was also inspired by the paintings of Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline and Willem deKooning, and David soon began to explore abstraction for himself.

In 1990, David began working through a number of abstract styles: from gestural, painterly expressionism, to hard-edged minimalism.

In 1995, David began making sojourns into wilderness areas of North America, from the austere deserts of Nevada and California to the coastal rainforests of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Forms and colours of the natural environment found their way onto his palette, and, in combination with intuitive aesthetic impulses, the resulting works were a synthesis of landscape painting and abstraction. This remained David's source of inspiration and painting process for many years.

A trip to Asia in 2011 rekindled David’s interest in Japanese art, and his 2012 exhibition “The Japan Series” is inspired and informed by this.His most recent works are more experimental in scope, both in terms of imagery and media. Tycho's recent inclusion in the "Paint the City Project", in which his paintings appear on 22 giant digital billboards in the Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal areas, is a new format for bringing his art out of galleries and museums and onto the streets.

Over the past 20 years, David has exhibited his works in Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Penticton, Whistler, Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, Los Angeles, Brussels, Geneva, Singapore and Manila, and his work is collected worldwide. He has also donated paintings to non-profit organizations, institutions and charities, including Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver, and "Unite with Art", a Vancouver auction to raise money for UNICEF.

In addition to painting, David is an often-published writer of articles and book contributions on art, social issues, travel and the wilderness, and he was the winner of a CBC Canadian Literary Award for a personal essay on Nevada’s Great Basin Desert. He frequently appears on radio and television and in print media.

David now divides his time between painting, writing, teaching, travelling, cycling, hiking and karate. He currently lives and works in Vancouver. 


My artistic lineage goes directly back to the roots of abstract expressionism. My instructor, Gordon Smith, was taught by important Bay Area painter Elmer Bischoff, who was on faculty at the University of California Berkeley with the likes of Richard Diebenkorn and Clyfford Still in the 1940s.

Still, of course, was an important if reluctant member of the so-called “New York School” in the 1940s and 50s, along with Jackson Pollock, Willem deKooning, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline and many others of note.

Diebenkorn and Bischoff headed up the Bay Area painters, who alternated between figurative and abstract expressionism.

What I mean to say is that I come by my abstract expressionist inclination honestly, and I feel fortunate and honoured to be part of such a lineage.

My work is inspired and informed by locations ranging from lava flows and glaciers, to grass and sage covered prairies, to manicured seaside parks, to urban sprawl. The natural or built environments are used as starting points from which each painting evolves and transforms, until representational elements are often subdued by aesthetic impulses and considerations. My goal is to create an image filled with vitality and stated in as few brush strokes as necessary. I’ve found that once the inexplicably “correct” strokes have been executed, petting or tidying the paintings only detracts from their vigor. Paint inherently runs, drips and bleeds, and I find much of the expressive potential and beauty in this very fact.

The works are ultimately explorations of line, color, form and gesture, and their ability to elicit emotional responses. Although subjects can be identified or imagined in many of my paintings, the works are intended to be viewed more as one would listen to instrumental music, without feeling a need to attach a meaning or narrative. At the end of the day, however, the viewer makes those decisions, and any and all interpretations are legitimate.

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