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Derbyshire artist Kerri Pratt

PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 October 2015

Kerri Pratt at work

Kerri Pratt at work

Ewan Mathers

As her time as the Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award winner comes to a close, Kerri Pratt speaks to Derbyshire Life about her latest exhibition - Of A Place

Examples of Kerri's workExamples of Kerri's work

This autumn Derby Museum and Art Gallery is hosting the latest exhibition by the current holder of the prestigious Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award – Kerri Pratt. Kerri has produced her work during a nine-month residency at the University of Derby’s Banks Mill studios and this also marks another step towards the creation of a permanent art collection for Derbyshire.

Kerri, who lives in Heanor with her husband and family, decided to study Fine Art as a mature student and graduated from the University of Derby four years ago with a first class honours degree. She has previously had studio space in both Banks Mill and Harrington Mill Studios in Long Eaton and took a sabbatical from her job at Derby College in order to take up her residency. Kerri has now taken the decision not to return to her job but to take the plunge and work full time as an artist.

The Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award was established in 1998 with the help of a legacy from the estate of the late Jonathan Vickers, a lifelong lover of fine arts, and is managed by Foundation Derbyshire. The Award itself was first made in 2001, with the aim of developing a collection of work by rising artists, which would be recognised nationally and would enrich the cultural life of Derbyshire. Kerri was selected for the Award in June 2014 from a high quality field, competing against applicants from across the country. Although the sixth holder of the biennial award, Kerri is the first artist from Derbyshire to be chosen.

Kerri said: ‘Since its launch in 2001, the underpinning theme of the award has been a ‘Sense of Place’, which I felt from the outset completely resonated with the type of work I was already producing. Coupled with this, I was born and grew up in Derbyshire and had wanted to make a personal connection in my work for some time, so it felt like the perfect match for me to apply.

Examples of Kerri's workExamples of Kerri's work

‘The current Award has had the additional theme of Our Treasure Houses. In my response to this I immediately thought of the museums and stately homes for which Derbyshire is renowned, with their fabulous collections, and I considered making connections with the architecture. However, I also wanted the project to have a very personal connection. By re-visiting memories of my own childhood growing up in an ex-mining town, I began to consider the landscape where I grew up as a child in the 1970s.

‘My grandfather (or Pappa as we called him), had a keen interest in rocks and minerals and as a hobby spent much of his time cutting and polishing gemstones and he treated them as real treasures. Once he allowed my sister and me to choose one and made it into a pendant for us. I still have mine to this day. These recollections provided me with a starting point and led me to take the theme back to a very fundamental level and question what was the treasure of my landscape and what were the treasure houses? In response I began to look at how industry had developed using the very basic resources of the land, thereby creating new ways of making a living, new possibilities and the creation of a different landscape of sprawling towns and communities.

‘A strong focus of my early work for this project was the mining industry, which later extended to water supply and factory mills. By visiting numerous sites around Derbyshire I fell upon some relics still standing as testament to the former glory of our industrial past. It reinforced my understanding that we live in an ever-changing landscape. In each of the paintings I have attempted to capture an essence of what I found, both through my research into the historical and social background of the setting and my own personal encounter, observation and experience of the place.’

Sites of particular significance to Kerri when producing the paintings were The Magpie Mine at Sheldon, Ladybower Reservoir, Pleasley Colliery, Arkwright’s mill in Cromford and Masson Mills at Matlock Bath.

Examples of Kerri's workExamples of Kerri's work

Kerri works mainly in acrylic paint and her paintings are usually a response to a personal encounter and experience of a particular place. Kerri says of her work: ‘In particular I like to draw attention to subtleties of the apparently insignificant, things that are taken for granted, overlooked, mundane and banal. My intention is never to produce a realistic, photographic image. Instead I want to make something that has an element of familiarity that will intrigue and engage the viewer without fully revealing itself.’

Each Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award winner is asked to donate a proportion of the work they produce during their year’s residency to the permanent collection, which Foundation Derbyshire is building for the county. The selection panel who chose pieces from Kerri’s residency included the recently retired Vice Chancellor of the University of Derby, Professor John Coyne, who has taken a keen interest in Kerri’s career since her graduation.

Education is a key component of the Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award and Kerri has led a series of workshops at Derby Museum and Art Gallery for a community outreach project, supported by funding from Rolls-Royce plc. Working alongside Kerri and Museum staff, a group of young people, aged 16–24 years, explored museum collections and took inspiration from local ‘treasure houses’ to produce an exhibition: ‘Miscellaneous – An exploration of Treasure’. This will be held at Pickford’s House concurrently with Kerri’s final exhibition and will be opened by well-known artist, Lady Ralph Kerr of Melbourne Hall. Kerri said of the project: ‘It has been fascinating to work with young people and observe where their inspiration takes them and see their responses to the theme.’ During the summer Kerri has provided a taster of her work in an exhibition at The Devonshire Dome in Buxton. She also had a joint exhibition in Déda, Derby’s Dance Centre and a solo exhibition at Banks Mill.

Examples of Kerri's workExamples of Kerri's work

Kerri Pratt’s exhibition, Of A Place, will be held in Derby Museum and Art Gallery from 19th September to 15th November. All the paintings (apart from those selected for the collection), as well as limited edition prints of three paintings, will be on sale.

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