Some Notes on the Work of Ceri Pritchard
Ceri Pritchard’s paintings are fascinating, not least for their extremity. They are resolute in their classically fantastical, surrealist conviction, and this can be a lonely position in the context of contemporary art. It is not a complete isolation though, as there is a distinguished continuity of surrealist practice in Wales where Pritchard lives and paints. His sense of this surrealist purpose, combined with a diligent work ethic, makes him a total example of painterly conviction.
Pritchard’s art has been influenced through living in a number of different countries. He once lived in (and was married in) Mexico, and the psychotropic ethno-botany and magic-based religion that are traditional there have an important relationship with his painting. Shamanic psilocybin use in Mexico is often combined with a strange, unlikely magico-catholicism, not so dissimilar to the hybrid, magico-religious practices involving mushrooms that take place in Wales. Although he is now abstinent from any psychotropic chemical use, Pritchard has experience of it, and this qualifies a description of his work as sometimes as frighteningly anxious as a bad drugs experience, but always with a magically transformative intent.
He previously practiced an abstract psychedelic style, but this changed significantly (though not completely) in 2008, when he commenced his surrealist works and their narratives of psychological interiority. These paintings are characterised by surrealism’s traditional interests: dreams, the uncanny, fantasy, hypnosis, the psycho-sexual, and the mind alterations of psychotropic drugs. In conversation, Pritchard resists detailed analysis of the subject matter he depicts, but even a glance reveals an interest in order and disorder, power and disempowerment. Many disparities of power are seen in his works, which often involve people of disproportionate size – a theme that might reference parents and children, gender relations, or even, possibly, the uniforms and militarised relationships of nation states.
Pritchard was, and still is, an accomplished sonic artist. He became a practitioner during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, using tape loops and home built synthesisers to make hypnotic, experimental music. As both his painting and music involve surrealist and psychedelic themes, these put him in a relationship with the music and rich visual heritage – particularly the graphic work – of progressive rock, which was often engrossed with both 2. Examples of Pritchard’s psychedelic music and video collage work can be seen online, and this material should rightly be considered a significant part of his practice. It is perhaps – and not withstanding the achievement of his painting – the most complete and perfect expression of his art 3.
1.Important (even if only occasional) surrealist work in a Welsh context includes that by Dylan Thomas, Graham Sutherland, Merlyn Evans, Ceri Richards, Cedric Morris, Nina Hamnett, Augustus John, George Melly, and John Piper. More recent surrealist work includes that by Neil Coombs et al in the group exhibition Surrealism in Wales shown at the Last Gallery, Llangadog, in 2012. Adrian Dannatt gives an excellent description of this subject in Surrealism in Wales, (Neil Coombs and Adrian Dannatt, Dark Windows Press, Rhos-on-Sea, 2012).
2. Welsh psychedelia includes John Cale, the band Man, and Super Furry Animals.