From the collection of Jeremy Cooper comes an installation of over 4,000 postcards at Podshavers restaurant on the outskirts of Bishop’s Lydeard. Postcards by Ian Hamilton Finlay will also be shown at Watchet Boat Museum, together with an installation of postcards at Watchet’s Market House Museum. The three shows, all of which are curated by Contains Art, will run until the end of June.
Installation of over 4,000 postcards
Pound Lane, Bishop’s Lydeard, Somerset TA4 3AD, Tel: 01823 433556
Open evenings Wed. to Sat., Sunday lunch from 12 midday.
This is the final show in a series of installations of mint commercial postcards which Jeremy Cooper has mounted over the last three years, the first having taken place at Contains Art in Watchet in October 2013. Most of Cooper’s store of over 4,000 modern postcards are mounted in flush patterns across the walls of Podshavers, a family-run restaurant in an open-beamed Edwardian milking parlour on the outskirts of Bishop’s Lydeard.
These postcards have been gathered since the early 1980s, when Cooper began the practice of buying at least two of every postcard he liked, one for keeping, the others for sending. Since 1999 he has stored the postcards in categories, seeking out over the last decade standard commercial postcards in his favourite fields, such as shoes, country churches, chairs, toys, aerial landscapes, writers, shells, bridges, and many more.
Podshavers is owned and run by Rob and Tara McNeish, chef and front-of-house, who co-founded the restaurant in 2000 withJeremy Cooper, who was at the time responsible for the financial and contractual arrangements, as well as organising a series of music recitals. They named Podshavers after the cricket bat makers who used to work in the adjacent barn, shaving willow pods. Later, due to illness, Cooper passed Podshavers wholly over to his partners.
WATCHET MARKET HOUSE MUSEUM
24 postcards of Watchet, Williton and Washford
The Market House, Market Street, Watchet, Somerset TA23 0AN
Open daily 10.30am-4.30pm.
The 24 early postcards of Watchet and nearby Williton and Washford in this select show in Watchet Market Street Museum reflect a recent interest of Jeremy Cooper’s that has rapidly become a semi-obsession: pre-1920 postcards of Somerset, mostly hand-tinted by unnamed artists either in the negative or directly onto the lithographic stone. The display includes different views of Market Street, featuring the Museum itself, and also a fine tinted postcard of the paper mills, with St Decuman’s church on the hill behind, both published by N.G. Helliker in their premises opposite the museum, now a café serving excellent fish and chips.
The harbour at Watchet continues to be a favourite subject for postcard publishers and its changing formations are fully recorded, mostly in black and white – the earliest postcard on show of the harbour is dated 1903, and the alterations to landscape and buildings, often dated by the postmark or message, are part of the attraction of postcard gathering. This museum, built in 1820 as a covered market, is shown in a 1927 postcard to be occupied by Morse’s Distempers – the building was not opened as a museum until 1979.
Of particular interest are the social activities illustrated in postcards, the different dress people wore, as well as the carriages and bicycles used in the earliest years of the twentieth century. Worth noting are postcards of buildings in their original use: the mill in Williton, now the Bakelite Museum, and the radio station in Washford, now a children’s adventure ground.
WATCHET BOAT MUSEUM
Ian Hamilton Finlay
Harbour Road, Watchet, Somerset TA23 0AA
Open daily 10am-5pm
Jeremy Cooper’s collection of artists’ work with postcards has been accepted by the British Museum as a gift, accession of the collection in 2019 to be marked by a major exhibition in the Department of Prints and Drawings, provisionally titled The Postcard as Contemporary Art. The collection includes over 100 postcards designed by Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006), printed at his own Wild Hawthorn Press in Scotland, which he set up in 1961.
Finlay was particularly keen on boats, which he incorporated in a number of works, and Cooper has gathered 14 of his boat postcards, mounted in two frames, here on their first public display as a permanent gift to the Boat Museum. All 14 postcards are in perfect condition, purchased direct from Wild Hawthorn Press, stored since each of the first edition printings of between 200 and 250. The Tate, which owns a representative group of Finlay’s postcards and folding cards, describe him as “one of the most original artists of the twentieth century”, noting that “early in his career he was Britain’s foremost concrete poet and his approach to his work – whatever material he used, whether wood, stone, neon, bronze or paper – remained that of a poet giving form to ideas.”
He was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1985, and James Campbell, in a Times Literary Supplement book review of September 2016, described IHF – he was widely referred to by his initials – as “one of 20th century Britain’s most unexpected artists”. A large number of postcards were included in the solo Ian Hamilton Finlay show at the Arnolfini in Bristol in 2013. The Boat Museum’s group of postcards were specially mounted behind museum glass to protect from fading, in frames made of cardboard by local artist Helen Knight, who has been awarded the installation residency at Contains Art in spring 2018.