part 1: conservation and
The conservation and restoration of artworks is a profession based on scientific research and methodologies. Just like medical doctors, the primary aim of conservators consists in extending the lifetime of artworks. If a painting, for example, is losing paint, the conservator has to re-adhere the loose paint flakes and prevent further losses. The adhesive and method employed to re-adhere the flaking paint should not cause further damage to the fragile artwork or alter its aesthetic quality. The conservator makes sure that the adhesive is durable and that it can be removed during future treatments without jeopardising the painting's state of conservation. Eventually, the lost paint will be restored by filling the loss with material and retouched. Retouching is applied only on the loss with a very small brush to prevent covering or altering the original paint layer. In addition, whilst retouching camouflages the aesthetically-disturbing loss, it is important to avoid reconstruction that falsifies and disorientate viewers.
Every artwork is unique and irreplaceable. Like any other material, paintings and sculptures are subjected to an ongoing deterioration process. However, it is possible to slow down the deterioration rate of a painting by exhibiting and storing paintings in rooms that favour the artworks' preservation. If, on the other hand, a painting is hung on a fireplace or kept close to an external door, for example, the painting can deteriorate at a fast rate. Damage can also occur by accident; handling; and vandalism. One important thing that one should keep in mind is that damage and deterioration are not reversible.
Conservators-restorers can repair deteriorated and damaged artefacts. Thorn paintings, for instance, can be mended. Flaking paint can be re-adhered to its support. Dark yellow varnish layers can be removed to uncover the original colours. Inappropriate old interventions - such as past re-painting - can also be removed to uncover the original. Artworks have to be examined scientifically, documented, and treated following modern conservation ethics. [read more].
Still, conservators have their limitations: they are typically not good at performing magic tricks and have not yet invented the time machine. In other words, damaged and highly deteriorated artefacts can not be restored back to their former glory. When, for example, a part of a painting is lost, conservators reduce the visibility of the loss by retouching. However, one should note that it is impossible to replace the missing original part and to revert the artwork back to its pristine, undamaged condition. Hence, it is important to learn how to take care of artefacts because prevention is better than cure. There is ample scientific research that has defined various means of preserving artworks inside residential homes and art museums. Every measure has been scientifically tested and proven, using complicated equipment and years of monitored data. The good news is that everyone can learn how to take care of his/her own artefacts by following simple and effective measures. Hanging paintings inside internal rooms and keeping painting evenly spaced from the wall by two centimetres, for instance, can make a tremendous difference! [read more].
Everyone is invited to take a closer look at artworks - not just to better appreciate the artistic quality of the artefact, but also to check if there are signs of damage and deterioration. Realising and reporting damage and visible deterioration at an early stage can save an artwork from irreparable losses and alterations. Ideally, all sides of artefacts should be inspected on a regular basis. When in doubt contact a qualified conservator-restorer. Read more on the anatomy of paintings and download publications.
part 2: the art of painting
Painting is a prehistoric invention.
The application of paint on a flat surface is a tool that replicates the physical and the spiritual. In other words, painting can imitate what we see, feel or think about. The art of painting is the ability to observe, memorise and manipulate what we see in terms of shapes and colours. There are those who are extremely good at imitating what they see - just like a photographic camera. Such imitators just want to test and improve their painting skills, maybe even to satisfy their need of impressing the general public with their photographic techniques. After all, everyone can appreciate with great ease a photographic painting of a portrait, landscape or seascape. But why should we still be bothered to replicate a view on a paper or canvas when the exact process can be done with the use of a digital photographic camera, possibly combined with the use of an electronic photographic editing software, to achieve the desired result? In fact, history of art demonstrates that the art of painting took a very different direction immediately following the invention of the photographic camera. Painting became more sophisticated and more challenging, whereby the painter competed with the camera and tried to paint what the photographic camera cannot portray. Yes, the painter tried to depict the non-visible, the abstract, the spiritual. And this was only successful if the painter worked while being truly haunted by a concept or overwhelmed by an emotion. It is truly the biggest challenge to produce a painting that can transmit particular thoughts or emotions (perceived by viewers of the painting). However, the continuous effort to depict inner thoughts and feelings led the artist to be more individualistic and not so much compelled to follow one, commonly-defined style or formula. Not convinced about the latter? Just visit the contemporary museums and galleries, or simply browse the internet for images of contemporary paintings. You will see that there is no common style, no common goal, no common definition of contemporary art. Some perceive this negatively, as if we are living in an art crisis, where artists are living in a very doubtful atmosphere. Lots of such uncertainty has stemmed by the views of the general public which has been scorning modern and contemporary art for ages, arguing that art became elitist by being attractive mainly to the selective, art-knowledgeable audience. Contemporary art gave rise to the unfortunate necessity for information panels displayed along paintings in art galleries in order to explain the artwork. Psychologists wrote more books and papers on the meaning of art. The artists themselves became also more prompted to explain their work, often in front of video cameras or interviewees (mainly journalists), to document their intention for future reference, even after their death. But, shouldn't a painting stand on its own for others to evaluate? Is it really necessary to have contemporary paintings explained by their artists in order to understand and appreciate them? Is it also necessary to justify the validity of contemporary paintings with text and words?
And, yes, let us not forget that painting is a prehistoric invention which somehow managed to survive thousands of years and continues to find its way in contemporary art exhibition spaces. Yet, whilst contemporary artists continue dipping their brush in paint, many sustain that painting is an obsolete practice, often tagging painters as traditional and claiming that contemporary artists should opt for more innovative means of expressing themselves in this digital era. But, ultimately, the art of painting is just another tool which should continue to be considered when other media fail in interpreting and satisfying one's own statements.
L-awtur ta din il-websajt huwwa David Frank Bugeja, restawratur kwalifikat malti. L-ewwel parti ta din is-sajt titratta ir-restawr u konservazzjoni ta' pittura u statwi impittra. F'din il-parti wiehed jista jsib linji gwida semplici u effettivi ta' kif nistghu niehdu hsieb xogholijjiet ta' l-arti. Apparti minn konservazzjoni u restawr, l-awtur ghandu passjoni kbira ghall-arti tal-pittura. It-tieni parti turi il-perspettiva personali ta' l-awtur dwar din l-arti u tesebixxi ftit xogholijjiet li ghamel.
artandconservation.net by david frank bugeja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Malta License.
first site version: 2003
site location: malta - europe