postcard collages.


Like stamps or coins, postcards became collectable objects replete with nostalgia, their current-day obsolescence replacing former function with the new role of social history relic, aesthetic ‘icon’ and sentimental keepsake. Here, what had once been personal memos now become cultural ephemera of a generic kind. From today’s perspective these often grubby or faded objects, with their traditional typographic design, contain images of landmarks or popular resorts that have become barely recognisable through subsequent development and tourist industry modernisation.

By re-casting these postcards into a new art context, where they are marshalled into modular Warholian sequences, Osborne transforms them into visual and literary objects for contemplation, their ‘ready-made’ aspects further subverted through the accident of weathering or of the administration of distressing agents such as bleach. This results in a random abstraction, the now only partially recognisable imagery giving way to the textural irregularity and autonomy of an Italian fresco, or of an art brut or Abstract Expressionist painting surface.

These effects are clear in Cathedrals and Postcards from the Isle of Wight, the former containing a dozen part obliterated cards of celebrated ecclesiastical sites, the latter a series of phantom-like Edwardian figures emerging from misty, historically distant, backgrounds. The free association and automatic procedures of Surrealism are at play here. Since Surrealism was primarily a literary movement, albeit one that lastingly impinged on the plastic automatism of informal painting, Osborne’s deployment of random postcards, with their handwritten notes, possesses pertinence mid-way between the visual and literary. Osborne’s background as a published poet (A Moon in Leo Collected Poems 1975-76) indeed squares this particular circle perfectly.



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