A New Body of Work

A new body of work

‘Ephemera’ refers to a wide range of products (largely paper products) that are not seen to be permanent records. The list of these materials includes mostly printed material – weigh bills, envelopes, cards, posters, invoices, letterhead, etc . The increasing amount of ephemera is almost certainly the result of commercial scale paper making in the 1800s, of a rising tide of advertising, and of a need to record business transactions as the world’s economy became more integrated.

Artists are a pushy lot when it comes to breaking traditions, so it is no surprise that for some decades now, artists have used ephemera as a base for their art. They have painted on books, altered wall calendars, and overwritten letters. In many ways, this art work can be likened to the even older tradition of palimpsest – a kind of ‘over-writing’ of earlier works that probably grew out of the fact that paper was such a rare commodity at one point. The writer would scribe text and then turn the page 90 degrees and continue to write.

My most recent body of work turns around this ephemera, and the work in this exhibition began with me using some old cheques that my mother had and was about to throw away – cheques from the early 1940s. It struck me that, as these were old cheques, the paper might be a little higher quality than ordinary bond paper. In the end, it is similar to bond paper….just a little heavier.

The finished look I achieved by doing the paintings on the cheque paper was more than I could have hoped for, however. The colours were rich, the paper was stable, and the texturing of the postage stamps and cancelling perforations made these old wooden fishing plugs stand out in new and bold ways for me.

Second off the mark are the pieces painted on sheets taken from the Illustrated Magazine of Art (1853-54). A friend said to me, ‘Hey, Wayne, you paint on old paper; do you want these?’ He proceeded to give me a stack of the wonderful old magazines, and I was on my way. The pages range through a wild array of topics and themes that appeal to my eclectic side. You’ll see here just how varied the themes are.

Finally in this series is the work done on envelopes. This was a similar story to the old magazine paper – an acquaintance asked if I’d like some 1960s envelopes that were destined for the re-cycling bin. I jumped at the offer, and you’ll see here another varied set of themes has emerged – a set of themes that traces the story of the addressee and his worldly connections.

And I don’t think I’m done with the ephemera either – I can see more works like this in my future. I’ll continue with other watercolour works and with printmaking, to be sure….but for the moment, I find myself sucked willingly into the incongruous imagery that these old papers seem to harbour.

I’ll end this introduction with a thank you to the donors of these wonderful bits of ephemera – donations that have allowed me to explore my art in new and often unintended directions. I am grateful for their generosity and for their thoughtful contribution to this new exhibition entitled Just North: a showcase of art and design on display at the Kelowna Rotary Centre for the Arts from May 2 – May 30, 2019.

Wayne Wilson

Kelowna, BC May 2019