Using pen, ink and gouache, this series of work explores other-worldliness in the most literal sense. Exotic creatures are strangely juxtaposed, tiny houses emerge out of tree branches and hazy landscapes float eerily in mid air. They illustrate another realm – surreal voyages with hints of the familiar (Welsh cottages, hot air balloons and airplanes) and pure imagination (flying, stripy worms and quirky, tiny creatures). The result is a blend of Alice in Wonderland (“curiouser and curiouser”) and foreign fairytales (Russian dolls and bizarre wooden puppets) with a hint of studious zoologist (sacred ibis and armadillos.)
But Pratt does not accept the label ‘surreal’, saying rather, “I try to create humorous and dreamlike situations through my choices of subject matter and use of materials.” She becomes inspired, she says, by one object – an old house or a doll perhaps – and from there she amuses herself by imagining what to place around it. It’s the juxtaposition of various discordant objects that she finds pleasing.
From this inspiration certain motifs emerge, such as tree houses, assorted dogs and flying fish. Together with Pratt’s love of strange juxtapositions – a head on a stick with a pitbull terrier and flying worms, all floating in white space without interacting – these form the common thread in her work, further connected by her use of beautiful washes of delicate colours, in chocolate, tan and russet hues, or pale blues and green.
Pratt is a highly skilled printmaker, specializing in copper etching, linocut, collograph and monoprint, and one can clearly see these influences in her technique. Delicate crosshatchings are everywhere – some of which get denser, to form intricate trees with gnarled branches. Working almost entirely on or with paper, at present Pratt is finding a preference for gouache and pen and ink, enjoying both the flatness of gouache, and its ability to work as a watercolour where needed.
The fact that Pratt is an extremely prolific artist is undeniable. At this exhibition at Salon91 there are no less than 51 pieces of work on display – quite a feat given they were all created whilst she was traveling.
Away is a wonderful glimpse of both the peculiar and the magical, and the perfect escape from reality, enticing one’s imagination to drift freely – trying to make sense of this strange new world.
Sarah Pratt ‘Away’ at Salon91 Gallery runs until 22 February 2014