Gemma Cumming

Artist, Arts administrator, Project manager, Arts development worker, Gallery educator

My work centres around notions of failed perfection, utilising postcards to explore primarily imagery that sells places; which in reality don't fulfil our expectations. It is this idea of the perfect holiday that I'm interested in, both from advertising and the way people are persuaded to visit places and through my own personal memories of childhood holidays in Britain. I looked at the Art of Travel by Alain de Botton (2002) and was very interested by his notions of anticipation. He believes that the images that we are presented with persuade us to go on holiday, but that no place can live up to the image we create of it. The anticipation of a holiday is the best bit because we can only ever be disappointed by the real thing. I use postcards because they are tourist images that have ideas ingrained into them because of the things people write. Notable influences are John Constable and the Romantics, their work making places seem nicer than they are. It reminds me of other English tourist memorabilia like chocolate and fudge boxes. More recently Malcolm Morley's expressionistic paintings from tourist imagery also link by making a beautiful image look hazy and unreal. The postcards I paint have to include certain elements, including sky that I then replace with imagery of more apocalyptic and threatening skies to subvert the idea of beautiful places. These skies must work with the rest of the image and have most impact when their hue and tone contrast with the originals most prominent colour. I also change other elements in the postcard which are often more subtle than the sky. These cards must also contain people, as it is their non reaction to the strangeness of their environment that creates questions like, 'Are they really enjoying themselves?', 'Is this the perfect holiday?' The photograph series Last Resort by Martin Parr(1986) include people for this reason. Their holiday venue is a shabby seaside resort, which Parr shows in high detail with high-saturated colour. The photos connotations are beautiful but you can see all the grimy little flaws. I also produce drawings that take inspiration from both postcards and old travel posters creating simple monochrome images, subverting the highly coloured source imagery and by extension places they show. Instead of sunny blue skies or fiery apocalyptic ones the skies in these drawings are entirely solid black. This is further accentuated by the title (and in some occasions text in the image) that ironically tell you that the location is “sunny”. Recently I have also started producing hand coloured monoprints taken from my drawings. Unlike my drawings and other works however these have wonderfully blue skies. They are the size of postcards and the true to postcard imagery would suggest a lack of subversion. However, instead of subverting the postcard image I am subverting the postcard itself. Printed on delicate tissue paper and coloured with non light fast drawing inks they are beautiful semi -transparent images but completely useless as postcards. I have also has created a number of other works that further subvert the postcard or the tourist image and have a number of photographic projects that attempt to explore the reality of a place rather than subverting the falseness of the postcard image. read full statement

Location Crowthorne, South East