De Ploeg Centennial Stamps - Miniature Sheet
De Ploeg Centennial Stamps - Miniature Sheet for only GBP £7.77
On 22 May 2018, PostNL will issue the De Ploeg Centennial stamp sheetlet. The stamp sheetlet features 20 artworks by members of the artists’ association De Ploeg, which was founded in 1918 in Groningen. The works of art date predominantly from the first decade after the founding of the association, and include works by early members such as Jan Wiegers, Johan Dijkstra, Jan Altink, George Martens and Alida Pott. The stamp sheetlet is designed by Studio Joost Grootens of Amsterdam. The ten stamps are marked ‘Nederland 1’, the denomination for items up to 20g in weight destined for delivery within the Netherlands.
The issuing of this stamp sheetlet coincides with the large overview exhibition Avant-garde in Groningen, De Ploeg 1918-1928. The exhibition is from 26 May to 4 November 2018 in the Groninger Museum. A central focus of the exhibition is the cultural climate in Groningen at the start of the 20th century. The exhibition is the midpoint of a major event centring around De Ploeg, with numerous activities in the city and the province of Groningen.
Artist’s association De Ploeg was founded in 1918 in response to the artistic climate in the city of Groningen. The younger artists were of the opinion that the opportunities to exhibit and develop themselves were too limited. They hoped to collaboratively develop exhibitions of members’ works. They also wanted to introduce artists and the public to the newest developments in the fields of visual arts, architecture and literature, through exhibitions and lectures. The initiators included Jan Wiegers, Johan Dijkstra and Jan Altink. The latter came up with the name for the association. He felt that in terms of modern art, there was fertile ground in Groningen, and therefore suggested the name ‘De Ploeg’ (The Plough). Although De Ploeg continued to exist as an association – and still does – its art history significance is rooted in the 1920s. At that time, both an expressionist and a constructivist direction developed among the association’s ranks, characterised by a regional bond and an international artistic orientation.
The De Ploeg Centennial stamp sheetlet features 20 paintings by artists who were members of De Ploeg. The images – always a cutout from the original work – are distributed over the sheetlet in such a way that at fragments from at least two of the artworks are displayed on each stamp. The images don’t remain within the boundaries delineated by the stamp perforations, but continue onto adjacent stamps and the sheetlet edges. In the sheetlet background, there is a map of the city of Groningen dating back to the time when De Ploeg was founded. This map is in shades of grey and runs through the artworks. On the tabs next to the stamps are the names of the painters of the depicted works. The top edge of the sheet displays the title of the stamp issue and the logo of the Groninger Museum. The bottom edge contains the PostNL logo. The red used for the text is derived from the colour of the De Ploeg logo, designed by Alida Pott. The font used for the typography is Ceremony, developed by Studio Joost Grootens in 2015.
In 2008, Joost Grootens completed the design of H.N. Werkman, het complete oeuvre [H.N. Werkman, the complete works]. This book by Dieuwertje Dekkers, Jikke van der Spek and Anneke de Vries describes the extensive work of the man who was known as the ‘printer of De Ploeg’. This is part of the reason that PostNL choose to have Grootens create the design for the De Ploeg Centennial stamp sheetlet.
Explosion of creativity
During his research, Grootens noticed how unbelievably diverse the subjects were that inspired the artists of De Ploeg. ‘Furthermore, it was an extensive group of artists displaying a huge explosion of creativity, particularly during the first decade after the founding of the association. In addition to the originality of many of the works, it was noticeable that the members were intensely involved with each other. They were connected, as we would say nowadays. They inspired each other – you can see that in the large number of portraits they painted of each other. All of these elements are reflected in the design of the stamps.’
Grootens also found the concentration in and around the ‘island’ of Groningen fascinating. ‘That’s why we also wanted to make Groningen itself visible. Given our preference for atlases, a map seemed the obvious choice. But it had to be from the founding year, 1918. We also looked at whether we could establish a direct relationship between each work of art and a specific place in Groningen, and therefore on the map. It was possible, but felt a bit forced. Something of this is still visible though. For example, both paintings of the Blauwborgje are on the side of Groningen where the farm was situated. The works by Werkman positioned in the lower right section are also connected with the geographical location.’
Telling a story
The selection of representative works to feature was done in close consultation with the Groninger Museum. The result is a mixture of portraits, landscapes and cityscapes. ‘Both figurative and abstract work,’ says Grootens. ‘An important criterion was how the images would respond to reduction. That’s why we didn’t use any drawings, as little remained of them at this size. It’s just the same as when designing for books. You start out with a whole lot of images and at the end, you have the one image with which you can tell the story that you want to tell.’
Dialogue and encounter
Because Grootens wanted to display a large number of images at a small size, he deliberately sought a balance. ‘Both the size of each work and the distance between the images is the same. The image size has the same proportions as the size of the stamp. When placing them, we kept looking at how to develop the best dialogue between the city and the countryside, between overviews and close-ups, between figurative and abstract. Perhaps “encounter” is a better word than “dialogue”. Through this encounter, the stamp sheetlet as a whole transcends the level of the individual works. After all, it is about the artists’ movement. Incidentally, we worked with cut-outs throughout. On the one hand, that’s practical because you lose details when you display the whole image. On the other hand, the stamp is featuring a reproduction of the original, and you should emphasise this.’
Control and letting go
For the typography, Grootens chose a font that his own studio had developed for maps and indexes. ‘Above all, it had to be clear. The same applied to the names on the tabs next to the stamps, which we limited to the surnames. That gives a calm impression. If you see them separately, they are monumental stamps. But as a whole, the sheetlet has a rather loose character. That is no coincidence, because that’s exactly what design is about. You’re looking for the best balance between control and letting go.’
About the designer
Joost Grootens (Breda, 1971) studied architectural design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam from 1990 to 1995. He is a self-taught graphic designer. In addition to digital information, fonts and spatial installations, Studio Joost Grootens in Amsterdam primarily designs books in the fields of architecture, urban design and art. The studio is specialised in atlases, and designs both the books and the maps. Grootens has received several awards for his book designs. In 2009, Grootens received the Rotterdam Design Prize for his atlas designs. A year later, nai010 uitgevers published a monograph about his work, titled I swear I use no art at all. His clients include Lars Müller Publishers (Zürich, Switzerland), nai010 uitgevers (Rotterdam), Phaidon Press (London and New York), Van Abbe Museum (Eindhoven), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam) and Van Dale Uitgevers (Utrecht). Joost Grootens has previously designed the Europe Stamps 2009 (Astronomy).