A fine QUES­TION art OF... con­ser­va­tion

Dam­aged art­works can be re­stored safely, says AN­THONY SMITH, just don’t try it at home

EDP Norfolk - - Artsmith - CON­TACT asmith@asart.com www.asart.com An­thony Smith An­thony Smith read art his­tory at the Univer­sity of Melbourne and has over 35 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence as a gallery owner and art dealer spe­cial­is­ing in in­ter­na­tional art. www.asart.com

Ideally your ef­forts will never even be no­ticed

NOW, THE most im­por­tant rule in fine art con­ser­va­tion and restora­tion is that it never, ever, falls within the realm of DIY!

To be a con­ser­va­tor of fine art you need the pa­tience of a saint, the con­cen­tra­tion of a neu­ro­sur­geon and the hu­mil­ity of a Bud­dhist monk. Why?

Fine art con­ser­va­tion is a calling that re­quires not only skill and tech­ni­cal abil­ity but is one where you, as a highly skilled and trained artist in your own right, for­sake your own orig­i­nal­ity to put your­self in the mind and use the skills and tech­niques of the orig­i­nal artist to en­able you to re­store an art­work to as near to the orig­i­nal work the artist cre­ated.

The process can be in­cred­i­bly time-con­sum­ing, in­volv­ing in­tense con­cen­tra­tion. Of­ten, as you are work­ing, ad­di­tional is­sues ap­pear and need to be fixed prior to con­tin­u­ing. Ideally your ef­forts will never even be no­ticed, as that is part of the true skill of a con­ser­va­tor. You al­most be­come the orig­i­nal artist, even one who may have been work­ing 300 or more years ago.

Yet there have been some tragic and, sadly, hi­lar­i­ous at­tempts at con­ser­va­tion and thanks to the in­ter­net, we are able to see these dis­as­ters. The most re­cent case that springs to mind is that done by a lo­cal artist in the Span­ish vil­lage of Borja in 2012. Even though the orig­i­nal was a 20th cen­tury fresco, thank­fully not a re­nais­sance work, the ‘re­storer’ suc­cess­fully re­painted a de­pic­tion of Christ to re­sem­ble a potato head char­ac­ter. Sim­ply atro­cious, but com­i­cal at the same time.

Very oc­ca­sion­ally we hear of con­ser­va­tors who were so tal­ented that they then be­came forg­ers. but per­haps this is a dis­cus­sion for another time.

So when do you pos­si­bly need to use a con­ser­va­tor? Most of­ten it is when a paint­ing is dam­aged; per­haps it falls when a pic­ture hook snaps, or when an um­brella pierces a can­vas, or per­haps a spill stains a work or even a work you have had for years just seems dull, pos­si­bly as the var­nish has aged and been yel­lowed by smoke.

To­day, al­most ev­ery calamity you can imag­ine can be fixed by ex­perts. Here in Nor­folk we have some very fine re­stor­ers and if you are in doubt or need some ad­vice, there is al­ways Icon, the In­sti­tute of Con­ser­va­tion (icon.org.uk) who are able to of­fer ad­vice and di­rect you to a suitably qual­i­fied pro­fes­sional.

So if you have a work that is look­ing a lit­tle unloved or for­lorn due to dam­age, do con­sider hav­ing it looked at. There’s no obli­ga­tion and you may be pleas­antly sur­prised at the cost and un­doubt­edly with the re­sult.

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