Christopher Pratt: Six Decades

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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 Musée 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).

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Editorial Reviews

National Post - Robert Fulford
The magnificent new book illustrating his career, Christopher Pratt: Six Decades. with a valuable text by Tom Smart, demonstrates that Pratt's work makes a powerful impression when viewed in quantity. One Pratt looks good but 140 Pratts—paintings, watercolours, print—are overwhelming in an agreeable and convincing way. Together they tell an exhilarating story about an intelligent artist learning how to turn the experience of his life into art of authority and permanence.
North Shore News - Terry Peters
The clean lines and uncluttered landscape of a Christopher Pratt painting are instantly recognizable. The Newfoundland native has achieved enormous success while staying connected to his origins. This beautifully reproduced retrospective looks at Pratt's entire career from his prizewinning 1954 The Bait Rocks watercolour all the way through to his 2013 Argentia series. Tom Smart chronicles Pratt's journey from young pre-med student to his transition to art student and committed artist. Smart describes the impact that various artists had on Pratt's development of his own style and through his intelligent analysis, these subtle influences become more apparent in the paintings. The control of simple lines and rectangles are given extra dimension through Smart's descriptions and help provide deeper understanding of how Pratt seeks to find the abstract in the commonplace. Pratt is a master of the empty space and within it provides the viewer the chance for their own subconscious to bring forth an emotional response to the well ordered image. The clean lines and subtle tones that are Pratt's trademark are presented in large scale in the stunning collection of 140 paintings many that have not been seen in public before now.
Quill and Quire Books of the Year
What a delight to engage with such a well-designed, thoughtful tribute to one of Canada's most important contemporary artists, Newfoundland painter and printmaker Christopher Pratt. Published in association with the Art Gallery of Sudbury, curator and writer Tom Smart distills decades of his personal and professional relationship with Pratt, covering everything from the painter's early influences and fascination with pre-Confederation Newfoundland to his affiliation with the school of Atlantic magic realism alongside Tom Forrestall and the late Alex Colville. Firefly Books designer Linda Gustafson's airy layout and full-page colour spreads give Pratt's meticulous paintings and sketches enough space for close study and quiet contemplation. Smart doesn't overdo the text, either, wisely turning ample space over to 140 of Pratt's works, which feel luxurious and complete.
Quill and Quire - Andrea Carson Barker
Christopher Pratt is widely acknowledged as an important Canadian painter, but he has long been viewed in the shadow of his better-known East Coast compatriot, Alex Colville. This gorgeously designed book seeks to redress the imbalance with a thoughtful journey examining almost the entirety of Pratt's artistic practice... Smart's clear, simple prose weaves between Pratt's images, helpfully referring to specific paintings to illustrate his points... We learn of his love of light, exemplified by several paintings of the same scene in radically different illumination. His more recent works have increased in complexity and implication—windows are more often open and figures appear. Perhaps out of respect for his subject, Smart never delves into the reasons behind Pratt's choice of subject matter or his wonderfully precise, austere style... Nonetheless, this book brings together the vast scope of Pratt's output, much of which had never been published, making it an important resource for one of our country's greatest (and thus far underappreciated) painters.
Sudbury Living - Vicki Gilhula
Unlike much contemporary art, viewers will have no difficultly figuring out Pratt's images but understanding what he is trying to say is another thing. After reading this new book, one may never look at a Pratt painting or print the same way.
Canadian Art
Tom Smart gives us an accessible yet nuanced account of Christopher Pratt's life and practice.... Large reproductions of early works, serigraph prints, watercolours and studies draw closer attention to the more abstract and atmospheric qualities of Pratt's work... Alongside the anxiety, emptiness and quiet of Pratt's paintings, Smart reveals an enchanting, wondrous, meticulous and personal world.
Gift Books 2013 Globe and Mail
Finally, the book Newfoundland's Christopher Pratt, one of Canada's most prominent painters and printmakers, deserves. A large format retrospective covering the artist's entire career, this edition features well over 100 of Pratt's works with warm and appreciative accompanying text by curator Tom Smart.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781770851283
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 10/1/2013
  • Pages: 175
  • Product dimensions: 11.10 (w) x 11.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Christopher Pratt: Six Decades
Note
Afterword
Index
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Preface

Introduction

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.

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Introduction

Introduction

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.

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