In Conversation with Ellie Pratt and Guendalina Cerruti

Words by

Sofia Hallström

In Conversation with Ellie Pratt and Guendalina Cerruti

Sofia Hallström: I wanted to ask you both about scale and affect and how this is explored in the work. You both explore the idea of something that is quite small and throw-away but can be monumental in its impact. Can you expand on this?

Ellie Pratt: I find it interesting how you've combined affect and scale together. In my work I like to begin with a moment or a feeling and expand on that, taking something quite transient or fleeting and drawing it out, then I explore these moments though different ways. I play with scale in a literal sense too, using it to lean into different perspectives and nuance in order to charge the paintings with the kind of affective energy I’m looking for. I like thinking about scale as I think it draws both of our work together, with clear shifts in scale from smaller maquettes to larger structures, the works explore a sense of awe in relation to the everyday.
Guendalina Cerruti: What I wanted to discuss is the starting point of my design vision, which is centred around an anthropocentric view of the universe. This idea has led me to explore the concept of scale in my work, where I relate it to the human body in two directions. On one end, there is the external world, including elements like the city, continents, planets, as well as society and culture. On the other end, there is the internal dimension, encompassing feelings and motion, which is more ordinary or cellular in nature. This is where the interplay between the external and internal becomes interesting for me, how they affect and influence each other. It's a mix of measurements and dimensions that I find intriguing, and I feel like I share an affinity with your work in this regard. When you sent me the painting with the figure coming from the universe, it made me think about the relationships between different dimensions with the figure at the centre. In my own work, this vision of scale often manifests as creating microcosms that sometimes approach macrocosms, exploring ideas of consent and the contrasting sentiments of cynicism and sentimentalism. Microcosms can inspire sentimentality towards the macrocosm, and this interplay of scales and different systems of measuring becomes a unique approach to exploring different perspectives and points of view.
Guendalina Cerruti, Life is a Tagada Ride, 2023 Wood, mixed-colours plastic beads, rainbow cord, felt, paper, glitters, glue, wire steel mesh, spray paint. L 48 x W 48 x H 57 cm. Photography by Daria Blum
Sofia Hallström: There is a dreamlike quality to both of your works, exploring feelings of nostalgia, melancholy and notions of escapism. Are personal experiences explored within the subject matter of the work?

Ellie Pratt: Yes, that makes sense. For me, it’s not personal experiences in a literal sense but I think the works definitely have a sense of longing and desire. In both of our artworks, there is an attentiveness to a younger self, and a sense of nostalgia and melancholia that naturally arises when working from this place. My works are dreamlike and surreal, inspired by something that is not necessarily tied to personal experience, but rather a sense of something beyond that, perhaps something more universal.

Sofia Hallström: Guendalina, you mentioned that the sculptures act as a filter. Can you tell us more about this?

Guendalina Cerruti: Yeah, I think yeah, that's the personal element in my work. I mean, sometimes it's very literal: I will use a photograph from my phone of myself. But the images are always very heavily edited and manipulated. I'm really interested in this contemporary idea of constructing the self against a context such as social media. Despite the editing and manipulation, there is still an unavoidable personal element that permeates the work, stemming from the necessity of expressing - or even feeling - something through a practice such as art. The nostalgia and melancholia in my work may also come from using personal images and referencing aesthetic choices or materials that evoke childhood or youth. I feel like my practice is a very solitary one and that is sometimes the consequence of ‘the artist’ having all this time alone. Also time for introspection and subjectivity which I feel artists can transform personal experiences into themes of melancholy.

Ellie Pratt, Turbo, 2023. Oil on canvas, 60 x 40 cm. Photography by Corey Battle Sanderson
Sofia Hallström: In terms of process, you mentioned that the workbench in the studio became sort of an island, an imaginary land in the middle of the studio that grew day by day from your imagination. Can you talk us through your process?

Guendalina Cerruti: I mean, it was a quiet and organic kind of development for me. I decided to explore this theme-park idea in the sculpture, which became a way to model a more detail-oriented approach to my work, which wasn't always my usual way of working. So, I ordered a workbench to create a more suitable workplace and to avoid spending too much time bending my back. I started working on this workbench, and eventually, the sculptures were all on this bench. Within my studio, the bench became a dedicated space for play, unlike other areas where I had my laptop for email or storage. It was just a simple square table where all the action was happening.

Sofia Hallström: Ellie, in the past, the paintings have depicted figures from magazines and fashion advertisements but in more recent works you described the female figures as easily accessible or in the public eye. How do you go about finding the source imagery for the paintings?

Ellie Pratt: Yeah, I was. I was taking source imagery from magazines because I was working at a place where they just gave out free magazines. But then they stopped providing them, so I started looking elsewhere. The female figure has always been central to my work, and I often look to the world around me for inspiration. Recently, I've been taking images from online high street shops' websites. There's something about the way in which these aspirational images evoke a sense of desire that I find interesting. I've always been drawn to these prolific images that are mass-produced and easily accessible. I think it’s that they are purposefully designed to be reflective, we are meant to see ourselves in them. These strange insidious images, that are in no way real but our longing brains want us to think they are, they come and go as quickly as the clothes change. I like that they have a fleeting quality and the tension that brings to the painting.

Ellie Pratt, Cloudy Sky (Night), 2023. Oil on canvas, 30 x 22 cm. Photography by Corey Battle Sanderson
Sofia Hallström: The figures are often layered, fragmented or obscured. How do you develop the compositional arrangements?

Ellie Pratt: Yeah, recently I've noticed that composition has become more prominent. When I got stuck in the studio, I started turning my paintings upside down to explore different possibilities. This approach has really opened up the composition and allowed me to expand on the function of the figure in my work. I've been thinking about how some of the figures in my paintings resemble collages, like a teenage girl's bedroom with images of people she's currently in love with. This way of thinking about the figure as a composition in an abstract sense has freed up how it relates to space and the purpose it serves pictorially, beyond just being a figure in a landscape. It brings energy to the surface of the painting.  

I've also noticed that I tend to choose images with high contrast, strong darks and lights. I'm unconsciously drawn to opposing energies and the interplay of light and shadow, much like the paintings of Manet and other artists I admire. The colour palette I use is intuitive, but I really enjoy the play of darks and lights. The website I've been using for image references recently provides a lot of photographs with high contrast, which makes my job easier.

Guendalina Cerruti
Sofia Hallström: The sculptural compositions are made up of beads and checked fabric. How did you start using these materials, Guendalina?

Guendalina Cerruti: I've always been attracted to fabric patterns that remind me of uniforms, like those worn in school. I find that these patterns have a particular aesthetic that I'm drawn to, and I often incorporate them to create contrast. These objects with clear images or recognizable symbolism are like a language that allows for meaning-making or searching. They become part of my vocabulary and contribute to the overall visual language of my work. Recently, I've been thinking about incorporating more tactile and sculptural materials into my work, but ones that are not traditionally used.

Guendalina Cerruti

Ellie: I think about how the beads, especially in Guendalina’s works for Milan, evoke a material language associated with young girls and self-expression. It reminds me of how young girls might put together beaded bracelets as a form of expression, and it's one of the first ways they learn to create and define their sense of self. The use of beads as a material is specific to a younger female experience, unlike traditional art materials like clay which have a long history in art. The beads are tactile and easily manipulated, like a readymade material, and there's a simplicity and beauty in their ease of use and accessibility.

Guendalina Cerruti: Yeah, that's very cool. I feel like accessory is a word that really attracted me and is the first way that you kind of play with your identity. It's a way of asserting oneself and making a statement about who you are, or to claim some kind of space for yourself.

Sofia Hallström: You described the sculptures as ‘objects from the past’ too, what do you mean by this?

Guendalina Cerruti: For sure. I've been thinking a lot about how everything seems to be from the past, even things like theme-parks. They're already obsolete, even though they're still here. It makes me wonder what things will be like in 10 or even 100 years from now. I feel like everything around me is already in the past, and it's interesting to think about how fast-paced our world is changing. It's like the concept of the past being already in the present, and it makes me question if it's related to the materiality of things, like if something is too tangible, it feels outdated quickly. It's a broad concept, but it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

Guendalina Cerruti, Life is a Tagada Ride, 2023 Wood, mixed-colours plastic beads, rainbow cord, felt, paper, glitters, glue, wire steel mesh, spray paint. L 48 x W 48 x H 57 cm. Photography by Daria Blum

Sofia Hallström: When we previously spoke, Ellie mentioned that the paintings deal with time: the static image is shifting, or motion. In the sculptural work Guendalina, the works can quite literally be set in motion. How did you both begin at depicting these states of transformation?

Ellie Pratt: In the works for the Milan booth, I was really thinking about the painting as a place that converts energy or power. I wanted the paintings to feel like they were in motion, as if they were moving, whether that be a shift in scale or quite literally compositional movement on the canvas. It's like how can I push the painting in a way that extends the viewing moment or makes it more dynamic? Thinking about the painting not just as a static space but being playful with how I compose the image, to allow the surface to evolve and expand as you are looking at it.

Guendalina Cerruti: I really wanted to experiment with building sculptures that had movement, like manual mechanisms. I felt like it added a touch of magic to the sculptures, like a childlike wonder when you see something that moves, even if it's a simple motion like a pinwheel. So that's why I chose to make them move. It's the first time I've worked with motion in my sculptures, as in the past, my sculptures tended to have a sense of trapped motion or tension, like in some of my dog sculptures.

Ellie Pratt, Engine, 2023, Oil on canvas 140 x 120 cm. Photography by Corey Battle Sanderson

Sofia Hallström: What is it about being artists and making that you enjoy?

Ellie Pratt: I love everything about it. For me, the most fulfilling aspect of my work is the sense of self-discovery and the challenges it presents. I enjoy the feeling of progress and growth that comes with overcoming those challenges. It's a very internal experience for me. I really enjoy spending time alone in the studio, working away, and getting closer to creating my most authentic work. I love the kind of daily plugging away at it and this idea of kind of getting somewhere.

Guendalina Cerruti: I love your answer. That's very cool. For me, having the time and freedom to dedicate myself to self-searching and self-discovery is crucial. I find it to be a fortunate practice, one that inspires me and brings me happiness. I value the opportunity to engage in world-making and meaning-making, as these practices allow me to explore my own creativity and find fulfilment in my work. It's a privilege to have the time and space to do this, and I feel grateful for it.

Sofia Hallström: Are you working on any upcoming projects after Milan?

Ellie Pratt: I have my solo show at James Fuentes that runs until 22nd of April. I will also have a solo show at South Parade in September, so will be working towards that in the next couple of months.

Guendalina Cerruti: I’m going to be staying in Italy for a little bit; I am working on a show with two other artists in a former printing warehouse in Arzignano, which is now a gallery and cultural centre named Atipografia. where I’ll be making a larger scale installation.

Installation View: South Parade and Ginny on Frederick at miart, Milan
No items found.