Cape Shore Feb, 1996
you try
design team


Christopher Pratt's work has gained national and international acclaim. To understand, and discuss that, one must begin by asking: why? In understanding what makes something "art", we often say that it is "universal", that it speaks to everyone. We also say that it captures very personal insights and ideas; and we see an artist's ability to identify these personal things as the cornerstone of their talent. When these two things, the personal and the universal, work together, we see fine art. And it is this element of Pratt's talent that captures and holds attention.

In his thoughtful introduction to Christopher Pratt: Personal Reflections on a Life in Art, David Silcox writes "Christopher Pratt's images from outport Newfoundland and Labrador both identify his place in the geography of the world and distinguish his paintings from (those of) other contemporary artists. Paradoxically, they also make him one of Canada's most universal painters, for even those with no prior knowledge of this distinctive locale are able to forge an immediate personal link with his haunting, piercing, symbolic images."

For most people who live in Newfoundland and Labrador, Pratt's work is about 'place'. It is about the architecture, the ocean, the socio-political realities, the landscape and its inhabitants, and sometimes the people of the province. For people who have never been to Newfoundland and Labrador, who know nothing about these things, Pratt's work is about change, alienation, hope, the fear and comfort of memory, and the deeply personal relationship each of us has with the external world. The external world that exists physically, beyond our own reach, and emotionally, as we, and others see and create it.

Whether it is a lynx, deciding to flee or to fight, the sunlit wall of a house on the ocean, the curve of a highway that disappears into the distance, or the distant pull of the evening star, there are things in these images that we find familiar. Familiar - not because we have seen them before, or know "where they are", but because we have felt the feeling before. And it is this familiarity of feeling that is the universal aspect of all great art.

Pratt's artwork itself has been described in many ways: surrealism, realism, abstraction, hyper-realism among others. While any of these may be true, and all of them are in some way, visual art seldom falls into any one rigid category. And it is not necessary to name the work in this way, unless your goal is to place it within the context of an art "movement".

There are, none-the-less, some things that are specific to Pratt's work. It is based almost entirely on memory: memory of things long past, and of recent events. He never paints from photographs in the way that a "photo-realist" does. He draws from life, or from things immediately in front of him, only when doing "figure work", drawings of models. Ideas may take weeks, months, or many years to develop into a print or painting.

It is this reliance on memory that often makes his images non-specific, as the titles suggest: Station, Institution, Cottage, and Big Boat. In some cases, the specific place is important. But even in these images, Pratt may change details to suit the design and atmosphere of the painting or print. Deer Lake: Junction Brook Memorial or Benoit's Cove: Sheds in Winter are examples of works that are about particular places.

While a work may be based on a specific thing, as is the case in The Bridge ,the image of the real object has become so abstracted from time and place and devoid of identifying detail that it could be any one of many such bridges. Pratt's works rarely, if ever, have signs or indications of wear or decay in them.Yet, many people, seeing these images, will know that this is on "old" house, or an "old" bridge. This again, is the result of the artist's ability to recreate, or recall, another person's emotional reactions, through images.
The Bridge
The Bridge

Pratt generally works in painting and printmaking media, specifically oil paints, watercolours, silkscreen and lithography. Occasionally, he uses other media such as woodcut or collage, and sometimes he combines several different media to form what is called a mixed-media work.

The following pages will help you further explore the artwork of Christopher Pratt. If you'd like to know more about the types of media he works in or the process he goes through to arrive at a finished work, have a look at the process and media section of this site. If you prefer to learn more about the various subjects that he has used throughout the years, check out the section on subjects. Finally, if you'd just like to experience the visual art of Christopher Pratt, visit the gallery section.home

Labrador, 1970