In the beginning... there were 4 stamps

In the beginning

I know the exact moment that led me to start making art from used postage stamps. I don’t remember the actual date, but I certainly remember the moment. I received a parcel in the post that included 4 different coloured stamps. I wondered how many different stamps there may be, and whether they might make a palette. After some research I learned that there were around one hundred different UK definitive postage stamps. A limited palette, but a palette nonetheless.

Man and dancers by Salvador Dali
Man and dancers by Salvador Dali

The discovery was combined with an idea that I been interested in for a while; making art that is two things at once, depending on how you view it. This concept came from a variety of sources, such as some of Salvador Dali’s work that is literally two (or more) things at once, and stereograms which were popular in the 1990s.

My work deploys used postage stamps as pixels to create larger images. When viewed from close-up, the viewer sees the individual stamps with all of their characteristics. Stamps are printed using a mechanical process that inevitably leads to variation in the colours. Each stamp is franked and then has a journey through the postal system which can cause wear and tear. All of these factors mean that no two stamps are identical. I use these variations to “paint” the overall image in my works.

Meanwhile, when one of the works is viewed from a distance, the eye can no longer resolve the individual stamps, which effectively disappear and become no more than coloured dots. Rather like viewing an impressionist painting, the brain then makes sense of the coloured dots and the viewer sees the overall image.

Share your thoughts