9 Stamps on 9 Envelopes
On a visit to Rome recently I met with Caterina Raganelli Boetti. After spending some time together she came up with the idea to post each other an artwork using Boetti’s mathematical system whereby he took an amount of envelopes and the same amount of stamps and stuck the stamps on each envelope (16 March 2016).
In each of the sets of stamps there is one ‘moving’ stamp that is different from the rest as it’s position changes according to the position of the envelope it is on.
We chose the number 9 for this work. And in the very moments we were planning I knew I would use the moving stamp as a threaded stamp on blank postage stamp paper – which is the cornerstone of my own work. It also refers back to Boetti, in that after I discovered his postal works I moved away from making similar works towards this very thing – threading silk thread over blank postage stamps.
So within this work contains both a direct relationship to Alighiero, and an aspect of my works that is original to me, combined in an artwork with Caterina, Boetti’s wife, which allows us to work in the present.
When I arrived back in Johannesburg I immediately started looking for postage stamps to put on the envelopes on the online Post Office. After a bit of trawling – I found stamps that were visually suitable and also covered the other aspect I was looking for, beautifully. I, of course, wanted to have a flavor of Africa on the stamps, as stamps are little representatives of a country.
I found a sheet of George Pemba’s paintings – mainly portraits. At first it did not look promising as each sheet had 10 different stamps so it looked a bit busy and uncoordinated. But a quick decision to tear up the sheets when I got them and divide the portraits up so each envelope was the same portrait repeated, made these stamps doable.
I also loved the online text about Pemba, his life and his context. After making the work I felt that I had not only stepped into an artwork that included Alighiero Boetti, Caterina Raganelli Boetti... but also, unwittingly, collaborated with George Pemba:
Grand Master of South African art is a well-deserved title for Dr George Pemba, who was and still is internationally
recognised as one of South Africa’s greatest artists. Many have been inspired by his works, his dreams and his vision for
the arts being a healing and expressive medium in Africa to promote tolerance among cultures that are as diverse as their
art. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of this great artist, the South African Post Office will issue a set of 10
stamps featuring some of Pemba’s best-know artworks.
Born in 1912 in Hill’s Kraal, Korsten in the Eastern Cape, George Pemba is described by the George Pemba Art Foundation
as “the miracle who painted during South Africa’s darkest years, when no black South African was expected to do so, or
supported when doing so.” He is further described as “a symbol of the rich artistic potential of black South Africans; his
artistic genius triumphed against all artistic odds with the arts fraternity; his history and story is one of persevering and
proving racial strereotypes wrong.”
Source: Virtual Post Office
After I carefully constructed the envelopes both practically and conceptually – even writing hidden text for the inside so that they are actually carrying something, I realized I now have to drop them into South African post boxes – a very risky endeavor. They may not all arrive at their destination. After stressing a bit about this fact, I posted them from 9 different post boxes across Johannesburg. And waited to hear from Rome… A few weeks later I received a letter from the Francesca Franco director of the Foundation to say they had all arrived!
envelopes, postage stamps, Hs8 quality phosphorised stamp paper, silk thread, pencil, ink
40cm x 100cm