The quickest and most easily diffusible art is that
of the stamp. In a mere instant, a work of art comes into being, and by
repeated application of the stamp, first to an inksoaked pad and then to
a sheet of paper, an unlimited number of works come into being. The elastic
block of rubber used to impress the image is even more durable than the
metal plates used by printers, and can be used almost indefinitely.
The artistic use of such stamps is linked to the time, place and context of the stamp itself, whether pictorial or textual, is of primary relevance, but so is the act and purpose of impressing it, as well as the circumstances under which this is carried out. We can thus identify three levels in this form of artistic expression. The first is the stamp itself, as an object which the artist designs or creates, but this, in and of itself, is not yet a work of art. Only the actual use of the stamp, i.e. its impression, has meaning for the artist. The second level, then is the act of printing. The third level is that of context. However, in addition to place, time and purpose, context also includes an attribute of stamps dating back to the distant past, when they became the instrument of bureaucracy and reflection of power they remain today. Stamps have always denoted authority, a final decision, validation or cancellation. From the onset, then, stamps have been associated with power and the emphasis of importance. The injection of artistic and poetic meaning into this powerful bureaucratic weapon, is not only a purposeful (creative form of subversion, but a new, more humane use of this age-old means of communication. The stamp thus becomes an expression of its creator's personality and individuality, instead of reflecting impersonal bureaucracy. In this historical transformation, art is the absolute winner, not only in terms of power but in terms of enriching its means of expression.
Artistic stamps are most often made by carving ordinary rubber erasers, but also by master stamp-makers who cast rubber using metal molds. Stamps made of metal, wood, linoleum and other readily obtainable materials are also used. Even children's printing sets with the rubber letters can be used, and it is also worth mentioning the related technique of applying stencils. The artist himself usually designs and produces his stamps, but there are also some who prefer to buy ready-made stamps in one of the many stores which sell such articles world-wide. Some might object that buying a ready-made stamp is not art, but what is essential in stamp art is the way the stamp is used. It matters whether the stamp appears on a clean white envelope, as part of a collage, or on a drawing, photograph or some other object - each of which gives it a new meaning. The imprint of a stamp can itself carry the entire artistic message, and it is possible to combine a number of stamps in various colors.
The artistic stamp in one of the most widely distributed forms of expression used by mail artists. Each individual in this network wants to have his own "personal seal" by which he can be recognized among the thousands of other members, and a stamp is the most practical way to achieve this. If nothing else, the mail artist will make a stamp of his name and address to facilitate contacts within the network of fellow artists. For the stamp is the quickest form of artistic work, and speed is an important factor in communication.
1994. (Translated by Richard Williams)