Christopher Pratt is one of Canada's most prominent painters and printmakers. His reputation was solidified with the celebrated retrospective of his work at the National Gallery of Canada in 2005.
The intense realism of Christopher Pratt's art is, at first glance, deceptively simple. But behind the recognizable images lie deeper meanings. Pratt's search for a reality that is magical and mysterious gives his work its uncanny and haunting qualities. Since the day in the mid-1950s when Pratt first saw the painting Early Sunday Morning by the renowned American realist, Edward Hopper, he has perfected his ability to represent the qualities of natural and artificial light.
Pratt stands in the line of other great Canadian artists, including Alex Colville, Lawren P. Harris, Jean Paul Lemieux and Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald, all of whom influenced him and the way he represents the land. Others who figured in his development include Americans Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper and Thomas Eakins. The unique and beautiful island of Newfoundland, with its culture, history, geography and weather, has also influenced his work.
This handsomely designed book, published in association with the Art Gallery of Sudbury, traces Pratt's development as a painter and printmaker from his early watercolors through to the iconic paintings of his mature years. It features more than 100 works, all beautifully reproduced, many of which have never been published before.
Christopher Pratt was born in 1935 in St. John's, Newfoundland. He studied at the Glasgow School of Art and at Mount Allison University, in Sackville, New Brunswick, and is universally acknowledged as one of the most important Canadian artists of the period. His work is included in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the MusÃ©e d'Art Contemporain of Montreal and Memorial University of Newfoundland, as well as in private and corporate collections in North America and around the world. He is represented by the Mira Godard Gallery in Toronto.
Pratt lives and works in the village of St. Mary's Bay on the Salmonier River in Newfoundland. Over the years, he has exhibited both nationally and internationally, with exhibitions in New York (1976); at Canada House Cultural Centre Gallery in London, England (an exhibition that traveled to Paris, Brussels and Dublin in 1982-83); and at the 49th Parallel Gallery in New York (1988).
Tom Smart is the author of numerous books and has worked in art galleries, museums and institutions across Canada and the United States, including at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, where he was Executive Director; the Frick Art and Historical Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he was Director of Collection and Exhibitions, and Director of Museum Programs. In 2006 he was a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Carnegie Mellon University.
Looking back in 2009 on his life as an artist, Christopher Pratt wrote that he chose painting nearly six decades earlier in order to make images that were tools of disclosure, exorcism and celebration. When he began, it never occurred to him that he or his art would be taken seriously, that he would be able to establish a career and earn a livelihood from painting, printmaking and drawing.
Pratt has lived and worked nearly all his life as an artist in the rural village of St. Catherine's, at Salmonier on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. From this vantage point he has created a remarkable body of work that reflects his vision of the world around him, overlaid with all the perceptual glosses with which reality is defined, place is sensed and a life is lived.
His is an art of many complements and paradoxes. A realist, his images are drawn from the complex intersection of memory and place. The specific locations he depicts might be the landscape as seen from the sides of the road or through the windshield, but their mission is to elevate his and our minds beyond the temporary and local to a place that is permanently and deeply embedded in memory. His art calls on us to plumb the deep recesses of our own imagination and unconscious, to recognize in the familiar an abstract core. Precisely rendered, orderly, tightly composed and rational, the landscapes he depicts as art are born from realms clouded by anxieties, tinged with feelings of loss. More mood poems that riff off the specificities of nature and place, Pratt's images impel viewers to revisit times and locators in their own lives and see the known as richly striated with competing emotions, feelings, ideas, assumptions and expectations.
His is a clear world. Yet beyond the clarity of the light that illuminates his painted or printed environments, in the intervals between exact delineation, and from the tenebrous shadows that bathe his nocturnes, a spectral presence seems to imbue each image with a strange and amazing pall. If a machine can be populated by a ghost, a house by a poltergeist, then Pratt creates believable, exact and crystal clear interpretations of subjects that are haunted by dense and rich mosaics of meaning. Pratt's art holds in keen, taut equilibrium an array of tensions that pit the precise against the felt, the known with the imagined, history with myth, the understood with the frightening. Phobias that shake our confidence and dredge long-suppressed neuroses seem to roam, free-floating in the land lying just beyond the windowpane opening on to the river at the edges of his Salmonier property.
In Pratt's visual poetry, the land is as wondrous and memorable as it is threatening and hermetic. The metaphors comprising his painted vocabulary describe an iconography of a life fully engaged in the belief that the world is what the mind creates. In the beginning is the image that renders and tames, in intelligible form, the randomness and uncontrollable truths that lie beyond the perimeters of human consciousness outside the windows of perception.
Table of Contents