Today I convinced Andrew to join me on an art escapade – a field trip out to the Maple Ridge Art Gallery for the opening of Shari Pratt’s tasty paintings.
The figurative works are based on photos of strangers from the 1930s and 40s, enhanced by memories of the artist’s own, more recent, childhood.
Her complex surfaces are delicious, and while they are painted in acrylics, her handling of the materials is reminiscent of oil painting. What you can’t see in a photograph of her work – or even ten feet away from the actual work – is the sgraffito technique she incorporates. Sometimes she’s used objects – such as a winged RAF pin – to stamp texture into thick gels or paints.
The canvasses are a variety of sizes, the average being about 48″h x 36″w. This scale plays with your perception. Your mind recognizes that these are snapshot compositions normally viewed on a small, intimate scale. The images come across as uncanny – the figures are from photos similar to the ones you’d find in your family album; pictures of your grandparents when they were kids. The clothing styles, the haircuts, the posed postures; all of it familiar but enlarged, bits of the image brought to life with pleasing colour.
Shari’s artist statement speaks of the loneliness and isolation a child of a family that moves frequently from place to place feels. I did detect a melancholy tone and a feeling of impermanence, evident in her colour palette and in the ghost-like, semi-opaque figures found in some of the paintings.
One of my favourite pieces, (Cry Wolf I believe it was titled) was a trio of children, two boys and a girl, standing outside in front of a fence. The girl, positioned between the boys, was painted in such a way that she looked as though she was fading into the background, her dress melting into the fence behind her.
I’m not gonna lie, it’s a drive to get out to the gallery but you will be rewarded with work well done. Plus, you could make an afternoon of it and drive a bit further for a late lunch at the famous Rocky’s Family Diner in Mission.