Prendergast’s first exhibition in the gallery since 2009, Atlas comprises of a single installation of over 100 modified road atlases each laid upon a trestle table.
At the heart of Atlas are notions of settlement, migration and displacement. The artist has taken a humble, everyday resource, the AA Road Atlas of Europe, and transformed it into a complex and compelling visual statement. Over one hundred copies of the atlas have been painstakingly drawn over by the artist with black Indian ink, eliminating all geographical details except cities and towns, which appear as small, unadorned dots in a sea of black. Collectively, the atlases provide a complete (if oblique) map of Europe, its borders and landmass simplified to reveal only the sites of human habitation.
Mapping has been a central component of Prendergast’s work since the beginning of her career. Guided by the illuminating principle that ‘All maps are subjective’, her practice touches not only upon notions of territory, ownership and political designations, tracing the vestiges of colonialism, but also incorporates more personal and emotional responses to cartography. Here, as in her Black Maps series, Prendergast uses erasure and negation to obliterate boundaries, borders and transit routes, whether manmade or natural, leaving only disconnected sites of settlement. But as pointed out by Art Monthly’s David Trigg, ‘for all their negation and absence, the true subject of these works reveals itself to be presence’.