MARY PRATT at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (10365 Islington, Kleinburg), to September 30. 905-893-1121. $15, stu/srs $12. Rating: NNNN
Mary Pratt's still lifes are shrines to the magic of commonplace things. With a perfect balance of vibrant sensuality and understated technical mastery, her hyperreal images both update and pay homage to the long history of still life painting.
In this current exhibit, however, she has collaborated with Japanese master printmaker Masato Arikushi in order to redo a series of her still lifes as traditional Japanese woodblock prints. In doing so, she stretches the limits of that medium.
Using a procedure known for its labour-intensive craftsmanship (each range of colours is printed with a separate hand-carved block), this project produced 10 exquisite prints over a period of 11 years that faithfully translate Pratt's photorealist paintings .
Japanese woodblock prints generally employ a flat, linear style of representation and include no more than 50 colours. Pratt's, however, vividly depict three-dimensional forms, using as many as 365 colours.
The 40 wooden plates for the print Glow Of Grapes On Garnet Glass are on display - a first, since they are traditionally destroyed - so viewers can see in detail how each image was transferred, carved and printed.
The prints themselves, however, are the true marvel, unrivalled in their translucence and depth of colour, successfully translating Pratt's painting style into a completely new medium.
The tangible and profound power of these works stems from this exhaustive and loving attention to detail. Nothing could be truer to the aims of still life than this communication of what it is to see, really see, those apples lying in a bowl on the table.