Guild Report 8 March 2017

How to look after your art

Noel James

Noel opened his talk with the dismissive phrase “It's easy to look after paintings” and then spent the next hour showing us examples where folks had singularly failed to look after their art. Mostly oil paintings, but some watercolours and pen & ink maps, as well as a few sculptures and other artefacts such as decorated paper mache plates.

Some of the cleaning attempts were guaranteed to end in tears – scrubbing with Vim was never going to end well.

The biggest threat to oil paintings seems to be water. Leaving paintings hung on the wall during a flood is another obvious disaster-waiting-to-happen, but also rehanging too soon after painting walls or hanging without good air circulation, will give mould problems. Differential expansion and contraction of the frame or the canvass and the paint layer during exposure to water and drying out, will cause the paint layer to crack and flake off.

Strangely, the very worst liquids for causing damage, are Coca Cola and champagne, although they get splashed onto paintings less frequently than water. Champagne can also be implicated in physical damage to the painting when the cork flies out of the bottle and hits the painting, or when some folks imbibe too much and knock the painting off the wall. Noel showed several examples of torn canvasses or broken frames. His examples of before-and-after pictures were very dramatic, and excellently demonstrated his comment that “nothing should be thrown away, everything can be restored”.

Noel explained a couple of very simple points that anyone can apply. When storing a painting, put plain tissue paper over the painting before wrapping in plastic. This avoids water damage as the painting sweats. Secondly, if you have to roll a painting to transport it, always roll it with the paint on the outside, to minimise cracking and flaking of the paint layer.

This was an interesting subject delivered with the enthusiasm and obvious love of the subject that elevates a talk from good to excellent.

Noel gave every impression of being at ease and confident both before and during the talk. Particularly impressive as, until 28 seconds before he was due to start, we were unable to get the laptop and the projector to talk to each other. The projector had IBM PC connections and the laptop was an Apple Mac, and the correct leads were missing. Thanks to David Balston, Mary McGill and Liz Waterman who all were involved in the eventual solution in the nick of time!

Next month, we have another local speaker, when Adam Moors will give his postponed talk subtitled “A walk through gynaecological surgical history” which promises to be an equally fascinating evening. Everyone reading this article has been involved in a gynaecological event but probably doesn't remember much about it. Time to shine a light on a topic that, for a long time, just wasn't talked about. Visitors welcome – Wednesday 12th April at 7.30 pm.

Richard Death

Back to the 2016/2017 Guild Programme