Mary Pratt Used Photography to Create Her Paintings

bananahomageI was late. An elongated father, son conversation stepped firmly in my path.
Was supposed to be McMichael bound at 12:30 then GH grad show in Distillery District around 4.
After passing a SUV with flames pouring out the driver’s window on the opposite side of the 407 I was rolling up #27 at 2:15. Gallery closed at 4.
Briefly I contemplated turning around. Grateful I had the good sense to press on.
Whining to the parking attendant about $5 fee before even paying for the gallery she informed me there had been noise about putting a machine in. “I wouldn’t be able to harass a machine now would I. Where’s the fun in that!” We laughed before I drove on.

The first image is a tented turkey on a platter. The man partially blocking my view smirks after reading the tag. His wife leans into the picture, an exquisite rendition of colour, tone, reflections on bent foil. Stunningly simple in its complexity. It had already become the right decision!

There was a 2 tiered wall of paintings reminiscent of old European galleries. All food. My initial reaction was a “celebration of the mundane”. Moving further into the extensive collection I learned in 1969, Mary had discovered a process of taking a photograph from which she would paint. She never painted any other way again. A moment of clarity for me.

One of the qualities of her work is her sense of light to be sure, but the colour is photographic colour with tungsten light reproducing orange and winter shadows the deep blue reminiscent of film photography before the days of white balance and digital colour. Her paintings are photographic in nature. The framing, the ‘moment’, the details all true to form.

You know when you do something, anything of the ordinary, and you discover yourself inside that moment. Fully appreciative of it, its simplicity, the clarity of it, the beauty of it. There is nothing else. This is what I feel Mrs Pratt has captured. These are not celebrations of the mundane, they are prayers acknowledging the power and importance of those fundamental moments in our lives, exquisite Zen-like moments.

I wandered around the exhibit 3 times drawn in by different images each time. Connected to her exhibit was a celebration of art from Newfoundland. A stately graphically powerful image by her husband Christopher caught my eye. It is utterly joyous she discovered her own voice through the noise of his celebrity status. Her vision completely different, filled with emotion. The polar opposite of his more cerebral work.

Approaching the end of my visit I landed in an area of Mary’s human figure work. Three woman huddled around a fourth chatting excitedly. I paused to ease drop. The woman they were talking with was “Donna”, Pratt’s favourite model many years ago. A petite woman, I couldn’t help oddly thinking she looked smaller than she appeared in the paintings hanging about us. A delightful little moment of celebrity contained inside all these majestic earthly moments.

I sauntered out into the landscape, fully satiated.

The photo came about the next day after peeling a banana for my cereal. The way it lay on the counter seemed quite elegant. I shot it wide open using the counter as my tripod with the camera set to a relatively high ISO. In Photoshop I simply added some highlights, vibrance, toned down the perimeter and added a filter for texture. Paying quiet homage to the genius of Mary Pratt.

Photography is celebrated once again during the month of May in Toronto. Check out:

Locally, there are 2 photo exhibits at KWAG:

Such a wonderful experience to step off the web and breathe in live art! An art gallery is great place to learn and grow your creative impulses.

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