ARCA CSGA OC
Salt Shed Interior
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1988 and on verso signed, titled and dated
53 7/8 x 104 in 137.1 x 264.2 cm
Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000
Sold for: $361,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto
A Prominent Corporate Collection, Toronto
Josée Drouin-Brisebois, Christopher Pratt: All My Own Work, National Gallery of Canada, 2005, pages 5, 26 and 100, reproduced page 27 and listed page 130
Tom Smart, Christopher Pratt: Six Decades, Art Gallery of Sudbury, 2013, pages 12 and 83, reproduced page 84
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Christopher Pratt: All My Own Work, September 30, 2005 - January 8, 2006
The most important thing in my work is light. Composition and design are important elements in any two-dimensional art, but in mine they are the bones, and light is the flesh and blood. It is an essential metaphor for life.
Christopher Pratt was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and has lived in Newfoundland all his life, currently residing in St. Mary’s Bay, on the Avalon Peninsula. One of Canada’s most important artists, Pratt creates realist paintings that express the world around him with order and simplicity, and are powerful expressions of memory and place. Meticulously rendered, Pratt’s images are stripped of any extraneous details; what remains is a rational yet enigmatic expression of reality. As Tom Smart writes, “Pratt creates believable, exact and crystal clear interpretations of subjects that are haunted by dense and rich mosaics of meaning.”
In Salt Shed Interior, Pratt depicts an industrial structure - a rectangular room roofed and intersected by beams, angular and simple, typical of what attracts Pratt in buildings. It is a practical, plain space made to contain a substance – in this case, salt. As Smart comments, in Salt Shed Interior we see “the familiar and the banal elevated to a level of exoticism.” Likely stored for use in winter road maintenance, this salt is an everyday substance, but, gathered in large quantity in such a well-constructed room, it seems to take on special and alchemical properties. Salt is a substance essential for animal and human life. Historically, it was a valuable trade commodity, once often difficult to obtain, and was transported on “salt roads” to regions that lacked it. Once precious, salt is now easily available – one can imagine the astonishment of people from the Bronze Age to see a room piled high with it, to be used not for preserving food and life, but to keep roads clear in winter. However, the unspoken importance of salt as a source of life resonates as an alternative layer of meaning in this image.
The salt, piled against the walls and gathered around the beams, contrasts with the hardness of the room in which it is contained. Due to its fine, granular nature, the salt forms soft drifts in the room, from the movement of air and from gravity. Josée Drouin-Brisebois comments on this work, “It is a compelling, dreamlike image, this arresting mound of organic whiteness contained within an interior.” Pratt’s palette is pared down to white, grey, grey-blue and black, and the light, illuminating the room from the featureless, repeated squares of windows, is flat white. In Salt Shed Interior, the artist carefully builds dark and pale contrasts in the structure of the room, which receives the immaterial light that is so important in this work. The dark recesses of the ceiling and the corner of the room add a mysterious atmosphere. Pratt commented about this masterful painting that “the light is the pleasure,” as it creates soft and subtle shadows across the walls and the salt, defining the central shapes. Pratt continued, “I do love light. It is warm yet geophysical; it is the non-organic sustainer of organic life, the real and the abstract. When I draw, it caresses where I cannot touch.”
This important painting was part of a major Pratt exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada in 2005, which included 60 canvases. Pierre Théberge, then director of the National Gallery, stated in the catalogue’s foreword, “With an eye always to his environment, [Pratt] has created some of the most memorable and cherished images in contemporary Canadian art.”
Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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