As the corners of the carefully folded hanky fell away the treasure inside the intriguing parcel Kerri Pratt had placed in front of me was revealed – a collection of beautiful polished gemstones in a multitude of shapes and colours.
“They were my Pappa’s (her grandfather),” said the Heanor-born artist by way of explanation. “When I was growing up he had big bowls of them at his home. He had a keen interest in rocks and minerals and it was his hobby to cut and polish them.
“We were allowed to look at them but never take them home and we really thought of them as treasure.”
It was these very gemstones that inspired Kerri’s presentation to the Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award judges and led to her winning the coveted prize in 2014.
The artist’s work focuses on man-made, industrial or urban settings and she felt the underpinning theme of the Derbyshire award – A Sense of Place – resonated with the type of work she was producing, but she also had to consider how she would interpret the sub-theme of Our Treasure Houses.
“I, like most people, immediately thought of the museums and stately homes for which Derbyshire is renowned and I considered making connections with the architecture. However, I also wanted the project to have a very personal connection.
“The recollections from my childhood growing up in an ex-mining town in the 70s 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 Kerri’s early work during the past year has been the mining industry but she has also extended it to water and the factory mills.
She has visited numerous sites such as Magpie Mine, Pleasley Colliery and Arkwright’s Mill, discovering relics still standing and traces of industries that are disappearing, leading to changing communities.
“I really have been on a journey of discovery. I thought I knew Derbyshire quite well, having lived here all my life but there were places I had never heard of, let alone seen.
“In each of the paintings in the series I have attempted to capture an essence of what I found and I hope that they reflect the historical settings and my experience of the place.
“At first I was a bit daunted by the idea of the big scale exhibition and what was expected, but once I started the work began to flow. It has been a massive learning curve for me and one I will remember for ever.”
Kerri’s exhibition Of A Place will be at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery from September 19-November 15.
For further details about the Vickers Fine Art Award go to http://www.vickersartaward.co.uk and to read an artsbeat feature written about Kerri last year check out the artists and performers section of this website.