November 2021

Engineering the Perfect Stamp: Guy Gee

Commonwealth


The urge to cross and merge boundaries is what makes an artist stand out, and the consumer will naturally gravitate towards art that they can relate to and identify with. That is how Stanley Gibbons came to discover Guy Gee, a London-based sculptor, and his one project in particular 'Terence Stamps'.

Image 1

Guy Gee at work in his studios.

Guy fell into working with stamps; he didn't follow the traditional route that usually comes with collectors of the hobby. It wasn't passed down to him during childhood by his father and there wasn’t a stock book or album in sight; it was a journey of discovery. Each of Guy's works are created by something inspiring to him, and that began with his fascination of Japanese graphic design. Guy marvelled over the beautiful Japanese manhole covers which are synonymous with Japan's uninfluenced and freeing style of design that could be seen throughout the country as a reminder of its isolated history. He soon came to explore the country's miniature line-engraved artworks that we all know and love - postage stamps.

We came to meet with Guy a few times at his working studio in Battersea, intending to set him the extraordinary task of creating the world's first replica of the ONE CENT Magenta to commemorate Gibbons' purchase of the world's most valuable stamp. It was here that we got a real glimpse into his working studio and a chance to discover the process behind the creation of each piece.  

Guy's studio was filled with art pieces he had accumulated or created, including his works from his mirrored landmass project. You can see the inspiration all around him as he works, from Japanese-style parasols hung beautifully from the ceilings to eccentric lighting created from chimney pots.

land mass

The mirrored landmass series created by Guy Gee.

"When I can't comprehend with something artistically, that's when I'm incredibly impressed." Guy shows us the stamp that started it all for him, a Japanese 1898 stamp from a series of general revenues, "It's the only stamp that I've not changed the colours of at all."

He explained the process of his work to us as 'digitally revised', meaning that once scanned, he can pick the stamp apart layer by layer through editing software and then begin to blend his favourite parts, ultimately creating the perfect stamp. Now, we understand that to some this goes against all of the rules, but that is what his art intends to do - break boundaries.

"Quite often a stamp will already be quite fantastic but sometimes they're a bit boring." Guy goes on to explain, "they're a bit two dimensional - they might just be one colour." His artistic eye spots how to improve the design aesthetically and he gets to work. This could be duplicating one half of the stamp to fix a rip in the design, changing the colours entirely or even bringing together elements from three different stamps from across the world to create the ultimate piece. "You might catch a philatelist saying, 'That's an Indonesian stamp mixed with...(another) that's not originally from there,' and you know, I don't care. I'm doing these purely for their aesthetic interests and whether it's completely accurate, I'm not too fussed about."

Japan Stamp

Guy's first piece, the 1989 Japanese stamp.

Guy and his assistant, Isabella, work hard on scanning and editing the stamps, printing them and carefully cutting them out by hand, ready for framing. When it came to the mammoth task of replicating the 1c Magenta, Guy wanted to leave the stamp untouched, "I've done very little to it. I wanted it to be as true to the original as possible. But, as you know, the original is a very dull, very dark colour, so I've enhanced the colour slightly but I've also overlayed the text from the 4c magenta."

Guy went on to explain the struggles of recreating such an iconic piece, "This is by far the most difficult stamp I've had to work with, primarily getting the colour right." Using an external printing company became essential in creating the 1c Magenta artworks, to ensure the colour match was near perfect and the paper was of good enough quality. Guy also had to hand die the edges of the stamp to match that perfect magenta tone.

We held a small exhibition of Guy Gee's work at our flagship store on the preview nights for the ONE CENT Magenta exhibition. Some of the works are still on display now in the exhibition space and also in the shop. You can purchase Guy's Terence Stamps and 1c Magenta pieces through our store in London or directly through Guy's website by clicking here.

Guy work

Guy Gee's 1c Magenta artwork displayed in the ONE CENT Magenta Exhibition at 399 Strand, London.

Further reading

Stanley Gibbons Journal

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