“…will be seeing you soon”. 2011. graphite, acrylic gesso, varnish on board (8.5cm x 13.5cm)
This is a drawing from 2011. It’s one of a number of drawings based on one particular postcard sent from Margate about a year after the end of The Second World War. It’s party a sort of portrait of a wave but it’s also a portrait of a postcard.
The image on the original postcard shows waves colliding at the foot of the cliffs near Walpole Bay, in Cliftonville, Margate. The hand-written message on the card is letting someone know that that the weather was bad and that “the air here soon makes you feel a lot better”; the postmark says: “DON’T WASTE BREAD, OTHERS NEED IT”; and ‘Rita’ and ‘Eileen’ send their love.
Small, unimportant, things have the habit of hinting at the presence of bigger things. The postmark, for example, reminds us of the continued effects of the recently ended war on everyday life; the hand-written message gives us a glimpse of someone’s lived moments and lets us know that they were here; the image (a photograph taken in the 1920s) records a little moment of time when two waves collided and merged with each other against the foot of the chalk cliff.
This drawing (as is the case with most of my work) came into being through processes of repeated revision and redrawing. My hand-written transcriptions of the hand-written message and the words and lettering of the postmark were repeatedly scratched into the surface and then repeated drawn over. The piece evolved in its own, unpredictable, way as the drawing’s emphasis shifted between drawing the waves and cliff and drawing lines of words.
Nothing stays the same. The Jetty, seen in the distance, has long since been lost to the elements; the seemingly permanent chalk cliff-face is slowly being taken by the sea and the people whose names appear on the postcard are most likely dead by now. The one thing that remains the same is the habit that waves have of repeatedly doing what waves do.
This drawing is partly a portrait of a wave and partly a kind of meditation on the presence and the passing of time, of people, loss and change. But then again it’s just a drawing – a carefully made little thing that might, perhaps, create the effect of bringing to mind the presence of more important things.
I’ve worked on a lot of versions of this drawing but very few of them have reached a point where I’m happy to show them as works of art. This one was shown at The Hastings Museum and Art Gallery as part of ‘Telling Stories: Hastings’ (2012). The exhibition was organised by the writer Cathryn Kemp with the purpose of bringing together artists from Margate and Hastings (both southern English seaside towns experiencing ‘cultural regeneration/gentrification’ – change).