Born in Zimbabwe in 1972, Sarah Pratt holds a Master of Fine Arts degree. She is a highly skilled printmaker, specializing in copper etching, linocut, collograph and monoprint. After spending 10 years in the print department of Michaelis as a part-time staff member, Sarah decided to devote most of her time to making her own work. She is an extremely prolific artist, constantly creating, and participating in a number of exhibitions. Sarah works from a group studio in Observatory, where she is currently interested in ink and gouache on paper, paper cut-out work, monoprints and drypoints.
Sarah’s solo exhibition Away opened at Salon91 Contemporary Art Collection in Cape Town yesterday, and ends 22 February. The exhibition is made up of a large body of paper-based works, created while the artist has been travelling abroad. Expect to see exotic creatures, houses that grow on trees, chance meetings, scale displacements, unfamiliar and magical environments and more… Go check it out.
What is art?
That’s tricky! For me it is just about anything that visually invokes an emotion in me.
What mediums do you mostly work in and why do you enjoy using them?
I work almost entirely on or with paper. At present I’m using gouache and pen and ink a lot. I like the both the flatness of gouache, and it’s ability to work as a watercolour where needed. I also love the process of cutting and assembling paper.
What do you enjoy about doing more surreal artworks?
I’m not really sure that I regard my works as surreal. I try to create humorous and dreamlike situations through my choices of subject matter and use of materials.
Birds feature in quite a lot of your works. Is this an intentional theme? Do you like to stick to any sort of imagery or themes?
At present, I simply enjoy the appearance of certain birds, and this is why I paint them. I do like to stick to certain themes, for as long as it takes to work them out of my system, then I move onto something else that inspires me.
Can you take us through your typical process when creating an artwork?
I become inspired by one thing i.e. an old house or a doll and from there I amuse myself by imagining what to place around it. It’s the juxtaposition of various discordant objects that I find pleasing. Once I am happy with the mapping out of the work, I like to experiment with pen and ink linework, then paint only certain objects. I think having been trained as a printmaker, I tend to create works in layer by layer.
What do you do when you aren’t creating art?
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Anywhere really – a conversation, a book, something I see.
If you had the chance, would you consider living somewhere considered more of an art capital e.g. San Francisco? What is it about South Africa that keeps you here?
Yes, I would and do consider living somewhere else, why not! But I do love plants, so the Western Cape is like an Eden to me. I mostly stay here because of my dog and friends.
Do you think that South Africa is moving forwards in terms of being recognised for its’ artists or not? Do you have any commentary on art in South Africa in the present day?
I don’t know – not really my area of interest if I’m honest, but I can tell you that I love being an artist in South Africa.
Why do you think that so many South African artists’ work seems to be strongly influenced by international artists? Is there a lack of originality in South African art?
Again, this is a place that I try not to go to in my head – I tend to think that all art is international. I find some art made by South African artists mind-blowingly exquisite, and some deeply awful but I am sure this is not unique to South Africa.
What advice would you give someone wanting to establish themselves as an artist?
Make the work that you need to make – don’t be swayed by what you think you ‘ought’ to be making.
Who are some of your favourite South African artists at the moment?
Oh, Georgina Gatrix, Elise Wessels, Andrew Lovell, Liza Grobler, Michael Taylor, Frank Van Reenen…