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Artist Roy Voss presents a curious and charming exhibition of works in the De la Warr’s first floor gallery throughout the summer, with time still to pay a visit until Sunday, 8  October. Comprised of over a hundred pieces, the exhibition celebrates the lost art of handwritten correspondence and the distinctive visual language of postcards. Mass produced and recognisable by compositions which mimic classical Art, idealised scenery and vivid colours, postcards may seem an outdated and trivial item. Their significance, as Voss reveals, is in the communication which they convey. A picture of one’s location, and no more words than can be crammed into four inches by five inches of space, express a human need to bridge geographical distance, to reach out to one’s loved ones and thus to familiarity, from across land or sea. While we may dismiss or underestimate these uncostly slips of mail, a small painting and an anecdote have the power to remind us that we are never truly very far from home. Most common in a recent but waning era in which international travel was not as easy and common as it is now, postcards are relics of a time in which we were, almost childlike, both excited and intimidated by distance.

This innate and heartfelt simplicity is highlighted in a similarly uncomplicated manner by Voss’s collage creations. Voss cuts out a single word, one selected by the artist which sums up both the frontal image and the experience which is inscribed overleaf, and replaces it backwards into it’s window within the picture, replacing a small area almost like a cluster of pixels with words. This exchange of colour and shape for a combination of letters highlights the power of description to act in the very same way as a visual image in transporting a person’s imagination.

The chosen words in question are poignantly thought provoking. Voss seems to expertly play on the human tendency to second guess the meaning of details, by presenting some out of context. For instance, one collage features the word ‘blue’; does this refer to the blue of the sky and the ocean, or to the ‘blue’ mood of the writer in their absence, I have wondered. Another features the tranquil, exotic green scenery of a valley, and the word ‘long’, which may describe the physical geography, the distance or the duration of time for which the writer has travelled, or indeed can be read as the verb form, suggesting that the writer ‘longs’ for something. Perhaps the company of the one to whom they are writing. In short, Voss’s engagement with language serves to bring to light the fundamental emotions that we as the viewer have in common not only with the anonymous writers, but with each other. Moreover, he leaves sufficient room for mystery to tease out our own feelings, the assumptions we make about the elusive true meaning of the solitary written words perhaps reflecting some inner truth of our own. Your interpretation might differ from mine, and from this we may glean something of ourselves.

The appeal of this exhibition is rooted in its sense of nostalgia and personal connection, yet also in the theme and the dynamic visual style of Travel. And indeed, the layout of the exhibition space underpins both of these elements effectively. The large white space housing the almost miniature scale artworks is minimalist and open, the blank, light environment somehow emphasising the effect of the vivid colours which come forth form their two-dimensional rectangles. Crystalline blues, verdant greens and blazing oranges indicative of holiday sunsets all evoke our common memories of adventures and travel, the childhood memories which somehow are rendered forever in spectacular technicolour by the youth with which we once perceived them.

The effect of this interaction of tiny artworks and a large space is that the viewer is compelled to physically approach each piece individually, thus a sense of intimacy is created and as the viewer you feel almost as if the post card had just arrived for you personally. The continuous row of collages travelling around the perimeter of the open space also creates a kind of storyline along which the viewer moves, taking in a disjointed and yet simultaneously cohesive series of snapshots into anonymous identities and experiences. The small scale of the collages in the vast gallery space casts the impression that they are tiny windows into memories shrunken or grown distant with time.

I recommend a visit to Roy Voss’s Exhibition, All the World’s A Sunny Day, merely to find out your own interpretation of the curious collage creations in addition to enjoying the plethora of other themes which you may find intriguing and thought provoking. Given the time to draw you in, this exhibition will bring a smile to your face, be it one of nostalgia, curiosity, or simple visual enjoyment of the largely forgotten distinctive, colourful and idealised style of postcard imagery.

Review by Olivia Foskett, Invigilator, De La Warr Pavilion

Roy Voss : All The World’s A Sunny Day continues in the First Floor Gallery until Sunday 8 October

Photo by Rob Harris

Posted by sally on Friday 29 September 2017