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In 2002, having visited a Marc Chagall exhibition, Mychael Barratt found himself contemplating one thing: what would the artist’s dog look like? In that moment, the image that would become Chagall’s Dog in Love appeared to him, fully formed. It was the beginning of a project that 20 years and over 50 prints later continues to showcase Mychael’s technical virtuosity, protean imagination, deep engagement with art history and, of course, his puckish sense of humour.
Although initially focused on etching, Mychael’s commitment to the Artists’ Dogs series has led him through the entire gamut of printmaking techniques. There are silkscreens, lithographs, woodcuts, mezzotints, and even, in a clever homage to the work of photographer Cindy Sherman, a digital print.
Although each piece has its own particular charm, it is only when the series is taken together as a whole that Mychael’s accomplishment can be fully appreciated. It is not just the technique that he varies, but the entire approach. Sometimes, such as in Edward Hopper’s Dog – Nighthawks, the dog is a careful addition to an otherwise faithful version of the artist’s signature work. Elsewhere, such as in Matisse’s Dogs, they replace the figures (in this case the participants of La Dance) that we would expect to see. In Bridget Riley’s Dog, Mychael has taken the spirit of the foremost practitioner of Op Art, subtly inserting the dog so that the piece is almost an optical illusion.
From Leonardo, through Holbein, whose elongated dog cheekily references the skull stretched across The Ambassadors, onto Rembrandt, depicted in Windhond in a composition borrowed from St. Jerome Reading in an Italian Landscape, Mychael’s dogs take us all the way up to the present of David Hockney, Wes Anderson and, most recently, Norman Ackroyd. It is rare that an artist can so impress us with his technical prowess and connoisseurship while simultaneously surprising us and making us laugh. It may have taken two decades to reach this point, but Mychael’s Artists’ Dogs will be delighting art collectors for many years to come.
Luke Wallis, February 2022