Found Image - From Postcard of Devil’s Bridge c. 1900; A Drawing in Time: Devil’s Bridge, June 2009
Intimate Distance: A Drawing in Time. Postcards create a different dynamic from conventional landscape painting and photography. Although the photographic image on the card is a ‘window’ view of a place; which we see via the lens of the camera and with all the conventions that that implies, a used postcard is not a static image, it has been animated by the sender. The sender selects a postcard to represent their experience of a place and though they cards are multiples they become individualized and unique by the addition of a text. The cards represent a generic visual construct of a particular place, which becomes a unique document of personal experience. I started to look for old postcards of landscape in local markets and bookshops. I then rode by motorbike to the places depicted making a physical journey through the landscape. I experimented with the tension between the moment captured by a camera and the present moment, recorded via the progress of a pen drawn across the surface of the photographic image as it traced the journey of my gaze across the scene in the actual location represented in the photograph over a specified time. I then re- posted the cards from the places recorded in the postmark back to the original destination – London, Swansea, etc. Through this process I was re-present in the place where the photographer had taken the image and where the sender had posted the card and both I and the cards were making physical journeys across the landscape. In my studio I sought a way to explore presence in place, which had been recorded by the photographic images of the postcards, via the postmarks and in the handwriting of the sender. Painting is a very particular but also multi-faceted activity; whatever the image created the presence of the maker is embodied in the paint, which can be simultaneously descriptive and expressive, representational and abstract. Initially I made a series of small-scale paintings of both photograph and handwriting on the postcards. I later experimented with large scale more physical paintings using watercolour, which seemed most appropriate due to watercolour’s historical context in relation to landscape. Finally, after completing the paintings, I visited the places depicted in the postcards and studied the three dimensional space via drawing – my presence in that particular place at a particular time. In so doing I found myself physically inhabiting the paintings I had made from studying the cards; which is the reverse process to the one I normally follow where I initially visit the place and study it through drawing then create a painting from the experience in my studio. In the early 20th century up to 7 million postcards were sent in the UK over the period of a year with six posts a day. It was possible to post something in the morning so it would arrive in the evening. Today many of us use mobile phones in a similar way sending text messages, pictures and even films to each other. The second part of this work explored the relationship between the digital images of mobile phone films and painting. The exhibition was a collaboration between myself and fourteen friends from across the UK who I asked to send me films of moments from dawn and dusk on the winter solstice.
Arts and Humanities Research Council
2 pieces: water colour/gouache on paper (150 x 120 cm) and ink on postcard. Photography by Tim Pestridge.