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Mary Pratt illuminates the McMichael this winter with fifty-year retrospective exhibition
Mary Pratt (b. 1935), Bags, 1971, oil on masonite. 45.7 cm x 63.5 cm, The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Collection, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Photography: Ned Pratt.

KLEINBURG, ON.- On January 18, 2014, the exhibition Mary Pratt began its much anticipated run at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection—one of only five galleries in the country to host the retrospective. Pratt, who ranks among Canada’s most distinguished contemporary artists, is known for the skill and compassion with which she depicts scenes from everyday life: eggs in an egg carton, light streaming through jelly jars, a child being bathed.

The exhibition focuses on Pratt’s oil and mixed media paintings, and is made up of more than sixty works spanning five decades. It includes many of the artist’s most iconic images and rarely seen works gathered from public and private collections. The exhibition is divided into six thematic spaces—place, process, the feminine, realism, everyday rituals, and offerings—showcasing the passion and intensity with which Pratt views her world.

“Because the McMichael gallery is one of the most family-friendly galleries I have known, and because the exhibition of my work is based on the life of my own family, I am especially happy that my paintings will be among friends when they hang on the walls in Kleinburg,” said Pratt.

For the first time in her exhibition history, Pratt is present in the gallery through written and audio statements as well as her paintings. Touch screens, audio devices, and an introductory film create a multisensory experience through which visitors will gain new insight into the life and career of one of Canada’s most beloved painters.

Pratt grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick and graduated from the fine arts program at Mount Allison University in 1961 before settling in Newfoundland in 1963 with then-husband Christopher Pratt. Fascinated by the way light played on the surfaces of everyday objects, she began using a camera to capture the scenes that would form the basis of her famously radiant still-lifes.

“Nuances of tone, brushstroke, angle and choice of subject leave viewers of Mary Pratt’s images with a sense of wonder and, sometimes, unease,” wrote exhibition co-curators Mireille Eagan, Sarah Fillmore, and Caroline Stone. “Highly contemporary yet rooted in the traditions of art history, Mary Pratt’s work reveals the breadth of emotion, skill and maturity this artist brings to her practice.”

The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery and Goose Lane Editions have released a publication designed to accompany the exhibition that includes seventy-five colour reproductions of Pratt’s most celebrated works, five critical essays, and a comprehensive chronology of the artist’s life and career.

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