Michael Shepherd

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1950

Dead Letter Mail

  • Purchased, 1996
  • Oil on board
  • 127 x 327 x 12mm
  • 96/73.1-7
  • 1995

‘Posted’ from the past to a series of enigmatic and elusive addresses (such as ‘Via my father’s memories of his father’), the seven battered envelopes in Michael Shepherd’s Dead Letter Mail have travelled the artist’s emotions but failed to reach their destinations. Readdressed, redirected and finally consigned to the Dead Letter Office, they are part of a series in which Shepherd combined episodes and details from his personal family history with the official story of colonial New Zealand. Painted in Shepherd’s distinctive illusory style, the stamps the letters bear – ‘TOO LATE, TOO LATE’, ‘BEYOND POSTMAN’S DELIVERY’, Lest we Regret DON’T TALK’ – suggest the difficulties inherent in trying to connect with or truly understand the past while also emphasising the potential for dislocation between our personal experience of history and the ‘authorised’ version.

(Keeping Time, May 2008)