Paper and ink

Portals explores the unique relationship between postage stamps and letters and the notion that letters and postage stamps are windows into an interconnected network of narratives. The 54 letters and 75 postage stamps used as primary sources for this artwork were received while I was living in London between 1996 and 1999.

The 22 artist’s books comprising this artwork, examine how these connections fade as time and distance increase. Physical and emotional distance between writers distort meaning and messages become vague as own interpretations are applied. The semi-transparent nature of the windows in these books echo these concepts by limiting the information shown through from behind.

The windows show connections between words in the handwritten letter following similar topics discussed on postage stamps[1]. The books each represent one handwritten letter from my personal collection and follow a windowed DL envelope format. The eight pages are joined by a concertina fold: seven pages represent seven themes used to classify postage stamps; the last page is the letter associated with the book. Both the book title and the letter are printed in RMSC4 barcode[2], thereby obscuring the identities of the writers. The page titles are printed in a dotted format similar to electronic cancellation marks.

The presentation method of Portals alludes to the organisational nature of the postal system and the archival nature of postage stamps and letters. In addition, the significance of my personal collection of postage stamps and letters lies in their being archival objects from my history.

[1] The SAPO philately department divides postage stamps into eight themes: every-day; proudly South African; presidents and people; nature and science; arts and heritage; sports and events; buildings and architecture; planes, trains and automobiles (www.virtualpostoffice.co.za).

[2] The Royal Mail 4-State Customer Code (RMSC4) is a barcode used by the Royal Mail to enable envelopes and delivery points to be sorted easily by high-speed machines.