24.01 – 24.02.2018
A solo exhibition by Sarah Pratt
Sarah Pratt’s collection of puffins and flamingos, herons and hot air balloons, wild dogs and horses appear as if conjured from a poem. Now that they are in gouache on paper they look about them a little bemused. “Here?” they seem to say, gazing at the viewer with the inscrutable expression of their ilk.
Migration is a whimsical look at animals in diaspora. This is not the first time that Pratt has employed the animal in her works, but her employment of them remains vested in the juxtaposition of the unexpected, and the absurdity and humour of dreams. Levi Strauss has noted that animals are good to think with. Throughout her exhibitions Pratt’s animals have met in curious spaces such as the foreign locales in Away or the sinister cocoon of The Dark Forest. Her works communicate the musings of the artist’s own personal struggles with space and place, and humanity’s tenuous link with the natural world.
In Migration not all of Pratt’s animals are necessarily migrating themselves. Some stand on the backs of other animals in order to witness the mass exodus outside of the picture plane. Some view this movement with confusion, or anxious vulnerability, others are merely interested in the activity. In treatment and form, Pratt’s animals remind one of the creatures that populate wallpapers of the eighteenth century: decorative inhabitants of the two-dimensional illusion of an ‘other’ space. Colonialism’s fascination with the natural world that lead eighteenth century Enlightenment scholars to insist on classificatory systems has consistently placed the puffin and the flamingo in the same space of the Natural History Museum. Preserved by the taxidermist and contained within the glass cases of this museum we are left with similar juxtapositions of the absurd. Hunting as a sport has had a similar way of bringing together the macabre trophies of, for instance: goose, fowl and pigeon. This was translated through time into the curious porcelain wild ducks on the walls of our Grandmother’s home. Pratt plays off these historical pursuits in a contemporarily waggish way, proposing a possible new world order of bemused harmony between duck and wild dog, Hornbill and Dachshund.
As viewers we are free to muse on the encounters of birds, mammals, plants and other flying things in the ‘nowhere’ place of the picture plane. In spaces described by decorative foliage or a pink sunrise or sunset, Pratt’s encounter of species delicately reflects an uncertain universe.