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Sunrise postcard paintings



I started the Sunrise Postcards project when we were in lockdown during the Covid-19 crisis. I needed something to do that felt grounded. It felt like the world was going crazy. There was so much uncertainty and apprehension, especially at the beginning in March when the number of cases was climbing higher every day and we didn’t know how bad it was going to get. People were losing their jobs, hospitals were worried about having enough PPE, the stock market was in free fall and politicians were making daily announcements. And we were asked to stay home. It was surreal.

Luckily, despite the lockdown, we were allowed to go for walks. I live near natural bush and would go for a walk in the Ironbark Basin every day. Often I would go the clifftop to admire the view of the coast. It felt somehow reassuring to connect with nature and the sunrise would always give me a sense of optimism. So I would take a photo of the sunrise; not necessarily of the sun itself but of the clouds and sea, then go back to the studio to paint it.

I was inspired by the conceptual artist On Kawara who painted the ‘Today’ paintings which was simply the date painted in white paint on a black canvas. He also did a series of postcards titled ‘I Got Up’ in which he sent two picture postcards from his location on that morning. All of the 1,500 cards list the artist's time of getting up, the date, the place of residence and the name and address of the receiver, rubber-stamped with the time he got up that morning

So I thought I could make my sunrise paintings as a way of recording my time during the lockdown - a durational work that will capture time passing and the enduring beauty of nature. Observation of the sunrise is an ancient form of marking time and a painting is a record of an event. I include on the back of the postcards all the climate data I can find of that particular moment in time. Time, date, location, temperature, rainfall, wind speed, wind direction, tides, water temperature, wave direction, surf size, moon phases, etc. This data speaks to climate change and how important scientific climate data is in understanding our changing climate. I would like to finish this project after completing 1000 of these postcards or when a Covid-19 vaccine is released, whichever comes first.


I find it interesting that no matter how much data I accumulate, it cannot capture the totality of the experience of seeing the sunrise, hearing the waves crashing onto the beach, smelling the salty seamist, and feeling the wind on your face. I am trying to capture that experience in the painting.

I decided to make the sunrise paintings as little postcards and send them to people as a symbol of hope. They are hopeful paintings. The dawn of a new day is full of potential and promise. And I hope these paintings convey that. I love how every sunrise is different, no two sunrises are the same, each one unique – just like us!

I am really excited that the Surfcoast Council has jumped on board with this project to connect people through an exchange of postcards in the Portal Postcards Project. In times of isolation, it is a great way to feel connected in the community. I hope my little paintings will find their way to people who need a little bit of positivity to brighten up their day. And who doesn’t in these strange times?


Image No: 8682, 2020, oil on paper.


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© 2019 Deirdre Boeyen Carmichael