January 18 to April 27, 2014
Organized in partnership by The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia & The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery.
Curated by Mireille Eagan, Curator of Contemporary Art, The Rooms; Sarah Fillmore, Chief Curator, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and; Caroline Stone, Curator of Collections, The Rooms.
|Mary Pratt (b. 1935), Basting the Turkey. 2003. Oil on canvas. 40.6 x 43.2 cm. Collection of Michael and Inna O’Brian. Photography: Ned Pratt, St. John’s.||
Mary Pratt (b. 1935), Girl in Glitz (1987). Oil on Masonite.76.2 x 114.9 cm. Collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.
Mary Pratt has become one of Canada’s most distinguished artists, celebrated for her work with familiar subject matter and domestic still lifes. The deceptively simple bliss of these scenes reveals a sophisticated approach to everyday life. Her works are skillfully executed and present nuances of tone, brushstroke, angle and choice of subject that leave viewers of Pratt’s images with a sense of wonder and occasional unease. These substantial artworks have multi-layered meanings for the artist, and for the viewers who encounter the range, subtlety and power of this remarkable painter. At once highly contemporary and deeply rooted in the traditions of art history, Pratt’s work reveals the breadth of emotion, skill and maturity that she brings to her practice.
The exhibition Mary Pratt is not a retrospective in the customary sense of the word. Concentrating on Pratt’s oils and mixed media paintings, the exhibition juxtaposes more than sixty works from different times in Pratt’s career. It mirrors the manner in which she approaches her subject—as an interwoven conversation of themes. Despite describing herself as “consistently inconsistent,” Pratt has enduring preoccupations. Her time is not dictated by clocks but rather numbered by daily rituals and the act of making ready. Pratt dwells on her surroundings, allowing a sideways autobiography through the objects and individuals that encompass her.
Touring nationally, the exhibition allows visitors across the country to view widely recognized as well as rarely seen works from the past five decades, gathered from private and public collections. It showcases Pratt’s “tougher” paintings (to use her own description of them) alongside allusive works, all embodying the intensity and compassion with which she views her world.
For the first time in her exhibition history, Pratt is present in the gallery through her words as well as images. She has written comments about each work, has provided audio stories for particular paintings, and collaborated with co-curator Caroline Stone in creating an extensive biography. Additionally, the exhibition presents short films set in Pratt's home in St. John's, NL. The films continue the thematic exploration by highlighting various lines of inquiry woven throughout her career—her daily rituals; what it means to be a woman artist, mother, and wife; the role of place within her work; and how her work relates to art history. Ultimately, this is an exhibition about Mary Pratt, here and now.
The exhibition is further complemented by the images and stories of others. A current portrait has been commissioned from Ned Pratt, a son photographing his mother now. Texts by Newfoundland writers including Mark Callanan and Lisa Moore provide an additional level of narrative.
Pratt has said of her own work: “My only strength is finding something where most people would find nothing”. This is a modest statement, but one that reveals the layers of beauty and difficulty she finds enfolded within the mundane. She ennobles the everyday, and elevates it to the near sacred. Her works are about herself, about the objects and people that surround her, and speak to a poignant experience we all can understand. People find something of themselves in her art. As a result, Mary Pratt has become iconic: she is one of Canada’s most beloved realist painters, and arguably one of its most illustrious artists.
Mireille Eagan, Curator of Contemporary Art, The Rooms
Sarah Fillmore, Chief Curator, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Caroline Stone, Curator of Collections, The Rooms
The Mary Pratt exhibition is a project by The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery and The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, with support from the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage, Museums Assistance Program, and also from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Mireille Eagan is Curator of Contemporary Art at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery in St. John’s, NL. Prior to this, she was Curator of Canadian Art at The Rooms, and was Curator at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown, PEI. Additional projects include acting as co-curator of the Terra Nova Art Foundation’s collateral exhibition About Turn at the 55th Venice Biennale. Eagan has lectured nationally on Canadian art, and has written several publications on Canadian artists.
Sarah Fillmore is Chief Curator of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, and Curator of the Sobey Art Award. Fillmore has worked the AGNS since 2005. In her role as Chief Curator she oversees the provincial art collection as well as the gallery’s acquisition, interpretation, education, conservation and exhibition programs. She is curator of its artist-in-residence program and chairs the jury for the annual Sobey Art Award, Canada’s pre-eminent prize for an artist forty and under.
Caroline Stone is Curator of Collections at The Rooms, St. John’s, joining the gallery when it was established in 2003. For twenty years, she worked in art exhibition and education roles for its predecessor, Memorial University of Newfoundland Art Gallery / Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador.
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