Katie Pratt’s colourful oil paintings seem both intricate and cerebral. And yet, the artist’s captivating work speaks of the organic and systematic process of making, the labour and ardour of painting and drawing inscribed across the surface of every deftly balanced geometric shape and moving plane. This unfolding of form “is a process that generates imagery, leading to something transcending what I could invent.” Indeed, there seems an exuberance in the attention to paint, the haptic qualities of pigment, surface, of drips, striations, intersecting lines and networks that appear somewhere between a constellation, digital networks, natural patterns, and a map of mark making. Unexpected colour pairing and graphic inscriptions complicate surface and produce a harmonious yet disjunctured beauty. Systems, geometry, and structure are assembled, examined and disassembled in a painterly process that creates an entirely new visual universe.
Pratt notes an interest in modernist abstraction particularly the work of the early twentieth century artists Wassily Kandinsky and Kasimir Malevich as well as the automatist qualities of mid-century abstraction as embodied in the work of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. Pratt’s body of work generally falls into two categories: classification systems paintings and generative systems paintings. The classification systems work is about “organising and ordering either the material inconsistencies of the paint or the rough brush marks of the ground. Sometimes paint is poured or thrown in the first stages of the paintings. This is to dissociate my intuitive voice from the initial stages of the paintings. I do this out of realisation that the materiality of the paint and its essential phenomenological behaviour (colours flowing into each other and mixing, e.g.) is not enough in itself to engage me - it is a tool, not an output.”
The generative systems series require a different approach which is constructive: “where formulae configure forms and chance gestures such as splashes of paint from another work that land on the canvas are used to generate imagery through code that I devise. Rules are invented in relation to each decision so that intuition and choice is distributed over a range of occurrences and a span of time.”
In Pratt’s contemporary work a dance of chance, study and gesture come together to become a distinctive and engaging abstract oeuvre that has an unparalleled beauty and intricacy. While process may be understood as indeterminate the outcome is masterful.
Rosa JH Berland