Surface and Symbol Outside the Lines - The Art of Andrea Pratt
I have always been intrigued by the work of archeologists. Meticulously sifting through layer upon layer of dirt and rock, they dig into the ages of the earth, uncovering artifacts that allow us to learn more about the evolution of human cultures, and connecting humankind through the discovery of common archetypal motifs.
When I entered the blogosphere a year ago, one of the first people I "met" was Andrea Pratt, the Canadian artist whose blog, Colouring Outside the Lines has since become one of my daily reads. Although I always delight in her generous servings of sharp humor, astute commentary, and introspective exploration, it is her truly extraordinary art that draws me in each time I visit. In its presence, I find myself playing the role of the archeologist, reading the narrative her painted artifacts reveal.
Ms. Pratt's work immediately calls to mind Oscar Wilde's assertion that "all art is at once surface and symbol." Employing a brilliant palette of saturated, jewel like colors, rhythmic patterns, and symbolic motifs in her signature "flattened and segmented picture plane," her paintings seamlessly embody an aesthetic, intellectual, and emotional communication that marries the concept and process with product, providing the viewer a rich opportunity to experience her work on these multiple levels. And although the viewer may be satisfied simply relishing the visual experience her art offers, looking beneath the surface of Pratt's work yields even greater satisfaction.
Pratt's most recent series, Primal Landscapes, shows a stunning synthesis of the techniques, motifs, symbols, and themes she has explored in previous series. Working in a large format (48" x 48" and 36" x 36"), Pratt continues her examination of time, growth, and life cycles in the layers of earth and sea through her use of pre-Columbian motifs and symbolic imagery and patterns related to the cyclical nature of life. These motifs and patterns are consistent with the multiple levels on which Pratt's art can be experienced, functioning both as literal cues to the landscape and each painting's visual narrative, as well as symbolic keys to each painting's underlying concepts.
Ms. Pratt uses a layered approach to structuring each painting that physically manifests her conceptual vision. She begins with an underpainting of strong colors in a palette complementary to that of the finished painting. This layering of complementary colors allows Pratt to reveal some of the underpainting in the outlines of forms, or as gradients within her patterns, thereby increasing the brilliant luminosity of the final colors. She continues by stenciling and stamping various images, and using conte to draw in other elements that will be painted by hand. She then moves between painting in the conte images, working in the background colors, and adding patterns to various planes of color. The finished painting seems to glow from within as the viewer's eyes move from symbols of death to symbols of rebirth and ripe life, all to the rhythmic drumbeat of energetic repetitive patterns. This beautiful vision of life is eternal, sublime, and inspiring.
Andrea Pratt "started drawing before (she) could remember," and drew daily throughout her childhood, receiving a district scholarship to study art at the University of Victoria. However, after graduating with a BFA in 1983 she "began a long hiatus from making art regularly," working for many years first as a photographic lab technician and then as a teacher. In 2001, Pratt made the decision to return to her life long passion and become a full-time artist. Since then, she has built an impressive portfolio and CV, showing her work in both Canada and the United States, and winning several awards.
Visit Andrea Pratt's website to see her latest work and previous series. Contact Ms. Pratt for information on availability and/or location of paintings for purchase at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pratt's art is also available through her blog, Small Art, where she sells small paintings ( 8" x 8" x 1.5"), and as limited edition giclee prints at Art For All of Us, where she is an inaugural artist.
Daily doses of everything Andrea Pratt can be found at her blog, Colouring Outside the Lines.