Dog Days, Vanishing into the Green Light is a personal glimpse into the artist’s soul following the death of her faithful dog, Laptop. But this is not a morbid exhibition, nor is it a sentimental wallowing in cutesy pictures. Most of the images depict Pratt’s beloved black labrador, but they are pictures of an imagined journey towards the “green light” – an in-between world inspired by the “Wood Between the Worlds” from CS Lewis’s novel The Magician’s Nephew.
Water is a key feature of the artworks – Laptop evidently enjoyed swimming – and as such they contain predominantly blues and greens on a limited palette of yellow, red and brown accents. There’s a light and airy feeling – the childlike innocence that fascinated CS Lewis – and the exhibition instantly creates an overall calm and fresh atmosphere as one enters the gallery, a far cry from the usual sombre theme of death and mourning.
Pratt’s drawings, mainly in gouache and ink, contain astonishing fine and accurate detail in her recurring images of dogs, boats, fish, and birds, as well as skeletons and skulls. Some pieces even include delicate paper scissor cuts and beautiful gold leaf detail. The neatness of Pratt’s style and the fact that the artworks were all created in just the last few weeks reveal a highly organized and disciplined mind, though one that is unquestionably creative.
The pain of loss is explored in a brave, sincere, and emotional way. Two exquisite portraits – ‘Dead Dog’ and ‘Dead Dog Too’ are instantly eye-catching in their simplicity, honesty and their black-and-white starkness. They are marvellous depictions of a loved one, and the artist’s memories and evident affection, manifested in the exhibits, brings the dog back to life on paper.
Despite the sadness, Pratt has imbued the pictures with humour and playfulness – tribute, no doubt, to the dog’s playful nature. A team of three skeleton puppets tickling a labrador lying on his back is an image of dog heaven that immediately had me smiling. Another outstanding piece is the large ‘Golden Wings’, which contains finely cut out paper paintings of different breeds of dogs, each wearing a set of magnificent golden wings, on a background of pure white.
Sarah Pratt has created a collection of elegant-yet-approachable, emotional-yet- lighthearted art which focuses on joy while dealing with a profound issue – a fitting homage to the life of a faithful friend.
Dog Days, Vanishing into the Green Light – a solo exhibition by Sarah Pratt, runs at Salon91 21 January to 14 February 2015.