Unfortunately it’s beyond the reach of most of us mere mortals to ever be in the position to acquire an original composition by one of the UK’s leading contemporary art exponents such as bed-maker, Tracey Emin or vase-creator, Grayson Perry. The same goes for any lingering dreams harboured about ownership of sublime works by Yinka Shonibare, Fiona Rae and Norman Ackroyd for that matter. However, while most of us have to stop dreaming quite so big at some point, this summer we’re reminded just how beautiful small can be when we downgrade our illustrative expectations.
Let’s face facts, what we don’t know about contemporary art and artists we can fit onto the back of a postage stamp, and it’s postage stamps we’re referring to in this instance, as one of the country’s most beloved institutions flags up the creative works of some of our best loved painterly pioneers. Be it a self-portrait by Grayson Perry or a Fiona Rae abstract, the asking price for such sublime artistic gifts is the princely sum of a trifling 67p. Or to put it another way, the cost of a first class stamp today.
Both Tracey Emin’s and Yinka Shonibare’s unique version of stamp art will set potential investors back a little more at £1.55 each, and if you find yourself flush some of you might throw caution to the wind and snap up the entire commemorative set for less than £10. So whatever way you look at it, a steal in terms of a post office job that doesn’t result in a custodial sentence.
This Brand New Collection of Contemporary Artist-designed Stamps Can’t Be Licked!
You have to set your watch back to 2006 to recall the last time that the Royal Mail paid homage to the art world courtesy of a dedicated set of special stamps, when it celebrated 150 years of the National Portrait Gallery’s existence. This summer however, the more conservative compositions of the likes of Joshua Reynolds and Walter Sickert give way to the more flamboyant (and occasionally provocative) visual works of Emin, Perry and co. And when you learn that Her Majesty’s mail providers pretty much gave said artists carte blanche to run with it, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all (graphic) hell might break loose. Yet the loose instruction was delivered with the caveat that the resultant illustrative endeavours could be neither offensive nor political.
Naturally the biggest challenge for the unlikely ensemble of artistic avengers was one of size. Although not insurmountable, constricting your creative spirit and flow to 37mm by 35mm (at least in terms of ultimate considerations) was always going to be tricky. Effectively the final images the artists put forward had to be legible at a scale not much larger than a thumbnail. That said, everyone rose to the unique challenge and what you now see is what you (contemporary art fans included) get.
Here at Chelmer we know a contemporary fine artist who is always at home working to extreme compositional parameters, and makes a hugely successful career out of shrinking the kids. Or rather the fully-fledged adults that Nic Joly habitually re-sized to fit in with his broader pictures.