Today we interview Richard Pratt who is a Young artist and entrepreneur who is trying to make it on his own. He recently launched an art gallery. Let’s take it away…
Nick: Who is Richard Pratt?
Richard: Good question…Well, I was born in Pretoria Park Hospital. My parents got divorced after opening a fairly successful restaurant in little town called Waterval Boven in the Eastern Transvaal.
I then ended up in Cape Town, and from there my mom decided she was bored of getting shot at and mugged so we moved to the UK when I was nine.
I finished the rest of my schooling over there. My original plan was to head into music production(all the mixing and recording), but after being fortunate enough to spend some time with an artist by the name of Gavin Collins I realised that as much as I love music, I really didn’t want to spend the next however long stuck behind a computer making minor adjustments to a song stuck on repeat.
So after nearly failing my A-Levels I dropped the idea of pursuing the formal education system and basically worked full time behind a bar for the next two years, painting in my free time and beginning my personal enquiry into what actually fascinated me. At the time it was mainly painting techniques, quantum theory and
At the time it was mainly painting techniques, quantum theory and Chinese philosophies. Eventually I finally paid enough attention to the niggling thought in the back of my mind that was telling me to move back to South Africa, made arrangements to stay with my dad and took the leap.
Nick: What is the philosophy behind your art?
Richard: Tricky question. I’d prefer to answer that by saying art is my philosophy.
I started out with photorealism and after proving to myself I could accurately replicate reality, I began to look into what actually made it tick.
As I moved more deeply into the intellectual affairs my work took a more conceptual approach, which is still there at the moment but hidden in the background.. After realising the utter futility of trying to rationally comprehend the universe I try not to punctuate the question.
Nick: How would you define your style?
Richard: I call it contemporary realism. A fresh take grounded in traditional ideals.
Nick: Is your style constantly evolving?
Definitely so! I’ve found my aesthetic foundation, so I think the worst is behind me. Now it’s basically playing around with tweaking and refining the process, which is ironically similar to what I was trying to avoid with my career in music, but this is a much better fit for me. As much as I love playing with the framework, I’m a romantic at heart.
Nick: Talk to us about how Richard Pratt arts came into being…
Did moving to Franschhoek Play a Role?
Richard: No, Richard Pratt Arts has been around since just after I landed back in Cape Town. The idea was to have a brand tag not limited to fine art, because although oil painting is my main medium, I do a lot of other things.
Once all of that stuff is mastered it’ll allow me to launch it without causing too much dissonance in my own mind.
Nick: What made you decide to launch your own gallery (over and above possible other avenues like having your painting feature in a gallery)?
Richard: Freedom, standards and profits.
Basically, I just didn’t want to have to rely on someone else to earn my living, particularly since 80% of the galleries that I’ve encountered don’t actually do all that much to sell your work.
You either end up hanging there for the next six months or being squished into some arbitrary space of an already over-cluttered wall.
And then they want to take up to 50% of the sale? No thanks.
As charming as they are, I’ve put myself through far too much existential anguish to be exhibiting next to Aunty Flo’s wilted begonia’s, so I’m putting myself through a little more to in order cultivate the right space for my work, and hopefully others.
So I began the journey at the Root 44 market outside Stellenbosch. That was basically the test phase to see if it was feasible. With low overheads and masses of people, it seemed like a good starting point, and it proved to be the case as I ended up selling over 160 paintings over the course of two years and established a reasonable following.
The gallery then happened through following a path of synchronicities, which I believe is a product of claiming your freedom and maintaining a depth of standards. If I hadn’t rigorously pursued a more inward journey, I wouldn’t have been able to generate the quality of work, enabling quantity of sales and a relative stability of mind to be able to act on subtle opportunities.
There are a few galleries that have caught my attention over the past couple of years, but it’s only recently that I’ve achieved the quality of work that I feel would meet their standards. Let’s see!
Nick: Take us through the nuts and bolts of making this a reality…
What were and have been the difficulties you have encountered?
Richard: Funding. Try ask for a bank loan as a young artist.
Really, my dad has been an incredible support and source of quality information. He allowed me to get started at the market and covered my ass in some risky months. It’s all balanced in the end, but this is the kinda business where you won’t sell anything for three months and then all of a sudden something will change and your next six months of rent will be covered in the space of four hours.
He also studied as an accountant, so his background has enabled me to squeeze as much juice out of the numerical lemon, something I probably wouldn’t have engaged in. I don’t have nice things to say about bureaucracies, so I try not get myself tarred and feathered.
Be disciplined. Adapt yourself to live comfortably with as little as possible, mental state is the most important factor in all of this, and you will reach rock bottom. Don’t let it end you.
Be discerning. We live in the age of information, which is an incredible advantage, but there’s so much crap out there that you really have to be willing to dig deep to find the few needles within the many many haystacks.
Be honest. Nobody likes a bullshitter.
Be willing to bend to the market. It’s about you, but cash creates a lifestyle. It’s a fine balance.
Oh, and don’t do it for the money.
Charge what you’re worth, but keep it in proportion to your quality, market standards and notoriety(or lack of).
And sell your television, it’s crap anyway.
Are you an upcoming artist or someone who is looking to start their own thing? Why don’t you share your thoughts?