DEMAND for Tessa Newcomb’s paintings is so high that she is able to work with only half a dozen galleries throughout Britain.

Kentmere House in York is the one northern gallery on the Suffolk artist’s roster.

“It’s always a privilege to show her new work,” says Ann Petherick, owner of the gallery in Scarcroft Hill, who will open Tessa’s 2011 show on August 6. “I’ve been exhibiting Tessa’s paintings since the 1980s, selling to eager collectors across the country.

“In fact, whenever I receive a new delivery from Tessa, I have to ensure that my Yorkshire customers see the paintings first, since as soon as they appear on my website they’ll be snapped up by collectors nationwide.”

Tessa’s latest collection is entitled Home And Away, Paintings of Everyday Life. “Her small paintings are gems: deceptively simple, witty and richly imaginative,” says Ann. “All the paintings have a feeling of mystery. You can never be quite sure what is the story behind the image, and that’s what makes them so compelling. “They result from close observation of people and events around her and have a clear perception of the world, whether portraying the wide open spaces of East Anglia, bizarre happenings in foreign cities or just the humour of everyday incidents.” The word ‘quirky’ is often applied to Tessa’s work, in relation to its subject matter, composition and even shape. “Many of her paintings are on odd-shaped pieces of rectangular board – tall and thin or long and thin,” says Ann. “It was years before I realised that she had got into the habit of painting in this way as a child, using the off-cuts of board from her mother Mary’s paintings.”

Mary Newcomb, who died in 2007, was a renowned painter too.

“After finally breaking free of her mother’s benign shadow, Tessa has in recent years emerged as a major artist in her own right,” says Ann. “Her Suffolk is a place of odd encounters: an unkempt land and seascape of working figures, dogs, boats, allotments, wild churchyards and wilder flowers.

“The county’s beaches, fields, people and animals are a constant source of ordinary – and yet wonderful – incidents for her paintings.”

Tessa was born in Suffolk in 1955 and still lives there. She studied at Norwich School of Art from 1972 to 1973 and at Bath Academy from 1973 to 1976, her subsequent work bearing a vividness of spirit that has been likened to the early work of Ben and Winifred Nicholson or Christopher Wood.

“Since leaving art school, I’ve always painted and exhibited and have become known for a particular style,” she says. “The starting point for a painting is swift notations drawn while out wandering. This may mean cycling in rural Suffolk or Norfolk, ambling through allotments, crossing London streets and bridges in sunshine or drizzle, or exploring ancient European squares.”

Poetry and prose inspire her too, such as Proust and Gerard Manley Hopkins, and so do passages of music and other artworks, as can be seen in her first book, Tessa Newcomb by Philip Vann.

“With the publication of this book last year, Tessa was justly recognised as a major artist of the 21st century,” says Ann. “As further affirmation, her work has been purchased by public galleries such as Bradford Museums and the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester.”

Home And Away will be on show from August 6 to September 29 at Kentmere House Gallery, where the opening hours are the first Saturday and Sunday of each month from 11am to 5pm, every Thursday evening from 6pm to 9pm and at any other time by arrangement in advance on 01904 656507. The open weekends for Tessa’s show will be August 6 and 7 and September 3 and 4.

Copies of Philip Vann’s book, published by Sansom & Co, are available from the gallery at £29.95.