Post Post

Ron McBurnie revisits a unique philatelic exhibition curated by Donna Foley and exhibited at Umbrella Gallery, Townsville, earlier this year.

Leena Nammari, Falastine-Palestine, two-colour screenprint on Fabriano Artistico, 38 x 56 cm, edition of 10, each comprised of 100 stamps.

As a child I was intrigued by the post and, in particular, by stamps on parcels from faraway places. My grandmother always saved stamps for me from letters and parcels she received from her Dutch and Philippine friends. Stamps spoke to me of exotic places that I hoped to one day visit.

Eventually, when I was older and an amateur philatelist, I purchased first day covers, ancient and contemporary stamps, and whole pages of the same stamp for my collection. I have always been fascinated by the repetition of a single stamp in the beautiful gridded pattern of a complete page.

It was with equal enthusiasm that I entered the Post Post exhibition where each artist’s work contained multiple images on a gridded perforated page. The units within each work could be looked at individually but worked well when viewed as part of a whole. Just like stamps, small worlds formed parts of bigger worlds.

The artists examined the subject in an impressive variety of ways. Townsville artist and educator Donna Foley invited ten other artists from Australia and abroad to tackle the stamp in their own unique ways.

Susan Baran, (Sydney, New South Wales) and Glenda Orr (Brisbane, Queensland) both focused on the rich tapestry of native flora from two fragile and endangered ecosystems of the Murray River and the Bimblebox areas. Baran’s colourful native flowers compliment the ornate dead branches of Orr’s yellow box trees.

Laura Castell’s (Townsville, Queensland) and Kerrie Cleverdon’s (New Zealand) prints feature native fauna of Australia and New Zealand respectively. While Castell’s linocuts focus on local characters, the ibis and the magpie, Cleverdon’s delicate mezzotints reveal the disappearance of larger species in New Zealand.

Kir Larwill, Diana Orinda-Burns (Castlemaine, Victoria) and Megan Lewis, (Newcastle, New South Wales), examine the letter itself from different points of view. Larwill’s subtly coloured screenprint presents us with enjoyable references to the aesthetic of packaging, parcels, airmail and commemoration. Megan Lewis’s etchings emphasise the letter as a physical object, evoking the physical journey it makes to the receiver, often from a foreign place. Diana Orinda Burns’s prints, Post Poste Postes, talk to us of the physical writing and posting of letters as well as to the changes brought by new and different forms of communication.

Leena Nammari (Palestine) and Nan Mulder (the Netherlands) present works which speak of special places. In Nammari’s stamps the places are endangered ancient Palestinian castles or watchtowers of special significance, while Mulder’s digital prints of eyes, noses and mouths collected from postcards resemble an imaginary mythical arcadia.

Jill O’Sullivan’s Welsh postings are stamps the artist made from wood engravings made while away from home on a residency in Aberystwyth, Wales. For Jill, each stamp has a special memory of time spent in a place so different from her home in Townsville.

Lastly, Donna Foley’s screenprinted series takes a tongue-in-cheek look at what makes us all unequally Australian. It was Donna’s idea to allow each artist’s gridded units of stamps to be pinned to the gallery wall and sold as whole pages or as individual stamps. This gave visitors to the exhibition the chance to view the transformation of the gridded pages as stamps were torn off during the period of the exhibition.

Ron McBurnie is an artist and lecturer at James Cook University, Townsville. He founded Monsoon Publishing in 2004.
Post Post was exhibited at Umbrella Gallery, Townsville, from 10 April to 17 May 2015.