‘Margate Imperialists 1930s’

margate imperiasts 1930s

Margate Imperialists 1930s, 2017, silver on gesso on board, 21cm x 30cm.

Work on this drawing has come to an end.  I could carry on working on it but I shan’t.

The drawing is based on a small photographic image on a postcard taken somewhere in Margate in the 1930s.  My guess is that the people here were dressed for an Empire Day event.  This is one of a number of drawings based on the same image.  It is one of a series of drawings based on images of people dressed in costumes of some sort and with a Margate connection.

 

Work-in-progress

Empire Day, Cliftonville, Margate, people in a postcard, work-in-progress

I haven’t posted a blog here for a while and that’s partly because I’ve been so unsure about the work I’ve been busy working away at lately; sometimes I think I’m on to something and sometimes that faith evaporates.  So be it.  Here is one of the things I’ve been working on.

This drawing is part of ongoing work.  A lot of my work develops very gradually over long periods of time and this particular project  began a few years ago when I bought an old post card at an antique fair near Nottingham.  My friend Jill found it and saw that ‘Margate’ was written on the back of it (it’s also printed very subtly on the front as well) and passed it to me.  Mt first impression was that it looked like a photograph from an ‘Empire Day’ event, and I imagined that the most likely venue for the photograph would have been in one of the large old hotels in Cliftonville (what used to be the ‘posh’ part of Margate and is now becoming ‘regenerated/gentrified’).  The costumes the people are wearing don’t look cheap.  I wonder who they are and why on Earth anyone, even back in the 1930s, would think it was funny to dress up as someone from the Klu Klux Klan!

I’ve been wanting to make artwork about this image for a long time.  I think it’s such an interesting image – so telling.  People are dressed as ‘types’ of people: exotic and funny foreigners and parodies of working class people (for example, there’s a man dressed as a ‘Margate Landlady’ and a woman ‘blacked up’ as a minstrel).  This particular project has been off-and-on for a few years and I’ve probably spent far too long on this one drawing alone (I’m embarrassed to say how long but I started it in June last year!).  It’s been repeated redrawn, abandoned, restarted, almost obliterated and redrawn.  The original image is just the size of a small postcard but my drawing of it is about 21cm x 14.5cm and it is drawn in silver on gesso on hardboard.  I would like to draw each of the people in the picture separately but this might never happen because of the cost of framing.  Most of my artwork doesn’t reach the point of becoming finished works of art hung on gallery walls but we’ll see what happens with this – we’ll see.

The drawing is just one of many works which continue to come out of my ongoing interest in making art about people connected to Margate (and also Thanet and East Kent) but which also bring into play issues and ideas to do with the wider world.  In this image people are dressed in costumes which express attitudes about identity and culture which are of their time.  People dressing in fancy dress nowadays are just as likely to express something about the prevailing attitudes of this moment in time .

The work is on going

Margate postcard drawing

margate postcard drawing, Roy Eastland, 2011

“…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).