In the age of the email it is sometimes all too easy to forget the simple pleasures of sending or receiving a postcard in the mail. The ‘Wish you Were Here’ exhibition of over 200 artists’ postcards including Carl Andre, Richard Long, Dieter Roth, Bruce Nauman, Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono, Ben Vautier, Gilbert & George, Susan Hiller, Gavin Turk, Ruth Proctor, Aleksandra Mir, Julie Cockburn and Mark Wallinger amongst many others collected by Jeremy Cooper should inspire even the most prolific instagramer that the humble postcard isn’t dead yet!
A poll from 2012 revealed that only a mere
16% of British Holiday makers abroad sent postcards back home in favour of social media.
Should we be concerned? I presume environmentally speaking there is less carbon footprint to the electricity and power gone into sending an email than the air miles and transport required to send a postcard?(...It’s an interesting thought that I wouldn’t hazard guess how much it may influence people’s means of communication) Whilst not at the heart of its intentions, ‘Wish you were here’ at Hestercombe in addition to presenting a showcase of artists’ postcards throughout history may also convince you that there is indeed still a place for both; that there is a skill and an art to postcards that supersedes digital modes of communication.
|Peter Kennard & Cat Phillips 'Study of a Head XI' 2013|
Despite my own interests in writing online I actually still do and enjoy sending postcards to unsuspecting friends as well as receiving them too. I even create my own to send! I think artists and designers have naturally continued and somewhat bias of me to say, but also naturally enjoy the creative challenge of either designing a card or writing on one. A traditionally A5 sized canvas of card or paper to work with, and even less room if one factors out the space for the address and stamp.
Is it possible to convey big ideas, thoughts and messages in such a limited space? You bet it is!
Their less instantaneousness and time and thought that goes into their creation are in themselves skills that are worthwhile not neglecting. A postcard as Art offers fantastic parameters to make work, to be inventive and communicate. As such they continue to be used and inspire generations of artists today.
Such is the breadth of Cooper’s collection, some 200 of which are presented at Hestercombe Gallery as there is so much variety. As a whole it reads as a ‘Who’s Who’ of the art world, an anthropological archive of art history from Robert Rauschenberg’s postcard featuring artist’s signature on a square of cardboard box, Susan Hiller’s ‘rough sea’ series of postcards of stormy British coastal scenes, Andy Warhol, Rachel Whiteread and Steve Butcher’s collage (pictured below right) mash-up of Piero Della Francesca’s ‘Duke and Dutchess of Urbino. Surely too many for one man to own alone so why not share them with an audience of many in what has been a nationally touring exhibition and book. There are cards here which are satirical, political, painterly, conceptual, minimal, jigsaw and place postcards. Postcards made of lead, toast, glass, with spoon and card crossing the whole art spectrum of media. It is a lot to see and take in! The show as a whole has a lot more to offer than pleasing nostalgia and though small contain some powerful art works that offer insight into broader ideas within a given artist’s practice.
|Steve Butcher 'Wedding Portrait' 1989|
I enjoyed some of the more word-based postcards in the exhibition, such as Graphic Artist Sarah Maxey’s ‘I’m at the Pineapple of my Career’ and many of the political cards such as 'Study for a Head XI' by Pat Kennard and Cat Phillips (pictured above right). Commercially speaking artists' postcards are a great art form to collect as they reproduce well in printed form and are easily portable. My only criticism is that it was hard to see some of the wall mounted framed postcards closely due to a double-hang and that’s not a reflection so much on my own height but the sheer number of postcards in the exhibition. The overall affect however is a joy because due to their familiar format they are artworks in which people can closely relate to. The scale and one-liner nature of many of them also make some of the ideas more graspable, the format is almost within most people’s means to have a go at creating themselves if so desired. I think it has the power to inspire a lot of people and generate an insight into artist’s ideas/practices. Incidentally, I am yet to find an artist who hasn’t at some point created an artist’s postcard so this is a collection that is set to continue growing!
‘Wish you were here’ is on at Hestercombe House Gallery until February 28th 2016