Deltiodogy, or the collecting and studying of postcards is one of the most popular hobbies in the world. From the beginning of its existence the postcard was a collectable item, as it is small, cheap and readily available, thus lending itself to different collecting strategies. From the start of the postcards creation in 1902 artists have gathered picture postcards for inspiration. Many artists, such as Susan Hiller, Richard Hamilton and Joseph Beuys (to name but a few) have used the postcard in their work in a variety of forms, ranging from specially designed multiples, to interventions into existing cards.
I have been interested in postcards for a number of years, although for a time I did not think of them as being important to my practice. I have always collected postcards and I am drawn to them because of their personal and intimate nature, a stark contrast to manner of communicating via the internet. In the small postcard sized paintings I have ended up creating in the last year of the MA, their size helps to recreate the intimacy of the postcard. The artist, Roxy Walsh has spoken of a similar love of handwritten letters and postcards and how they also influenced her into producing series of small, intimate paintings.
My interested in postcards and seeing it as a art form in its own right began in late 2009 where I began a mail art project on the theme of ‘Phobias’. I decided on the theme as I thought it was a topic broad enough to interest most mail art artists, friends and family. I publicised the project with a blog and on the ‘International Collection of Mail Artists’ website. I received over eighty postcards, and the collection was exhibited at the National Centre of Art and Design in Lincoln in early 2012.
(Detail from the Phobia exhibiton at the National Centre of Art and Design)
I displayed the collection in a critique in the March of 2011. I received generally positive feedback from this session, in particular from the visiting artist Mark Dean, who liked the link he saw between my interest in collections and categorising and in my background in Archaeology. Despite this feedback I did not know how I could pair this interest with my painting practice, or with my interest in exploring the theme of women and madness within art.
Whilst working on the ‘Phobias’ mail art project it was the accumulation and then the final collection of the postcards and the grouping and organising of that final collection that I enjoyed, more than the individual works themselves. It was the notion, as with many collections that the whole was worth more than the sum of the parts. Although it took months for me to realise, my interest in collections and more particularly postcards, and my interest in painting the natural conclusion to this was by painting postcard sized paintings. In turn I believed my paintings were interesting alone, but they became even more interesting if I created a number of them. There were no restrictions to how many I could paint, apart from my budget into the cost of materials.
My interest in postcard sized work and in collections also extended into organising a fundraising exhibition for the MA Fine Art show which was held at Motorcade/FlashParade gallery in Bedminster. For the fundraiser I asked artists of all disciplines to donate a postcard sized piece of work with their name hidden on the back which was then sold at a set price. The exhibition generated over one hundred and seventy postcards being donated. The art works were all made from different mediums; some were intricate in design, others seemingly simple. For me, my interest extended beyond the exhibition itself, but also from the act of the artists sending the works through the postal system, and my excitement in receiving them. I, in turn was happy to donate postcard sized work for other artists fundraising events, including an online auction at the University of Lincoln, and another auction at Transition Gallery, London. I enjoy the act of reprocity and exchange that artists postcards have.
(Installation view of 'Six by Four' at Motorcade/FlashParade gallery)