In 1954, Cress studied at the Birmingham College of Art where his training taught him much about the discipline of drawing from the model, but little else. In June 1965, he staged his first solo exhibition at the Argus Gallery. Cress spent some years as an abstract artist “to learn how to make paint live for itself” and then many more as a quasi-abstractionist. Cress’s best abstract work was from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s across colour-modulated surfaces implying depth and, by extension, narrative.
This latter phase was particularly productive in 1985 with the “Stages” and “Secrets” drawings and paintings. He moved away from abstraction in the mid-1980s with the introduction of recognisable objects and figurative forms. A distinguishing feature of Cress’s figuration is that it is not based on photographs. Everything comes from his imagination and his experience of life. In 1988, he produced the “Tell Tales” series of drawings which were the beginnings of his re-emergence as a figurative artist. That year he won the Archibald Prize and Peoples’ Prize. Cress had many highly successful solo exhibitions of his figurative work. His works are included in major collections across Australia and overseas. He died in 2009.