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CURRENT COLUMN

Seeing in Different Ways: A Liz Magor Backpack Project
Seeing in Different Ways:
A Liz Magor Backpack Project

Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)

Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)

Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum
Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)
Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)


Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 2)


Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 1)

After treatment
Oscar Cahén: Innovative Conservation
for an Innovative Artist

Structural
Rigid Water Gels: New Treatment Options for Paper Conservators

Structural
Structural Remedies for Canvas Paintings

Digital
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 4: Digital-based Material

Photos
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 3: Photo-based Material

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 2: Paper-based Material

First Steps
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 1: The First Steps

Natural Dyes
The Use of Natural Dyes in Textile Conservation

Butterfly
A Relocation Project

Challenges of Preserving Contemporary Artwork

Preserve Your Investment through Art Conservation

A Project Completed: Heritage Preserved

Old and New Methods for Cleaning Paintings

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I? Part 2

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I?

The E.J. Hughes Mural: An Expanded Project

Is She or Is She Not an Emily

Treating Art with Sensitive Media

Malaspina Mural: An Update

For the Artist: Testing Your Materials

Conservator as Art Historian

Alum Sizing and the Art of W.J. Phillips

Treatment of an Elizabeth Keith Wood Block Print

Structural Treatment of an Emily Carr

The Treatment of a Monumental Wall Hanging

Changing Images

Preserving a Rare Record

Gold Leaf: Imitation and Genuine

The Case Against Canvas Backings

Heritage Colours: Research Discovers Original Colours

Lighting Your Art: Balancing Seeing and Protecting

The Double-Sided Emily Carr Painting

Choosing a Period Picture Frame

How to Identify a Picture Frame

Stretching Canvas and Restretching Artwork

Mounting Textiles

Aging Paintings:
Some Causes and Effects

Chine Collé Prints

What's Your Favourite Color?

Backing Removals

Rips, Holes and Tears

Filling in the Gaps

DIY – Preventative Care of Paintings

Frame it Right

Fire, Water and Smoke-Damaged Paintings

Inherent Vice

Saturated Problems:
A Water-Damaged Painting

Moldy Paper

Conserving Time

Conserving Paper: Dos and Don'ts

Repair of Textiles

Conserving Wood

Rescuing Endangered Murals

Repairing Acid-Matte Burn

Art Services & Materials
Exhibition Openings & Events


Conservation Corner Back

Treating art with sensitive media:
case study of a Jean-Philippe Dallaire
charcoal drawing

by Rebecca Pavitt
www.fineartconserve.com

Conservators are often faced with a basic conundrum of how to make something look better without making it look worse. Water and touch sensitive media such as unfixed pastel and charcoal can present special challenges in this regard. The general rule of thumb when approaching media of dubious stability is to test and approach with caution. In this case the charcoal was somewhat stable to water and pressure and, fortunately, much of the distracting discolouration was in the non-image sections of the piece. This gave me the advantage of being able work around very sensitive areas.

Dallaire before

Jean-Philippe Dallaire drawing, prior to conservation treatment

Dallaire after

Jean-Philippe Dallaire drawing, after conservation treatment

The paper was first relaxed with gentle humidification. This was done by using Gore-Tex, which only allows water vapour through its membrane. Pre-humidification helps the paper to absorb cleaning solutions evenly and prevents unwanted wicking and tidelines. The non-image areas on the front of the paper were treated with a brush coat of a reducing bleach, sodium borohydride. Sodium borohydride not only reduces discolouration, it also breaks down gelatin sizing making paper more receptive to water treatment. After bleaching, the drawing was transferred to a blotter-covered suction table, and the treated areas were rinsed with deionized water. Areas farthest from the charcoal medium were rinsed with spray and brush-applied water and areas closest to the charcoal were rinsed with heated water vapour mist.

By slowly easing into a treatment, conservators can get a feel for how much (or little) solvent exposure a particular media can safely withstand. My own experience has shown that artworks like the Dallaire drawing, which are moderately water sensitive, can often be cleaned from the reverse without endangering the media on the front. The reverse and non-image areas of the front could be safely misted with diluted hydrogen peroxide and rinsed by floating the drawing very briefly on a deionized water bath. The piece was further rinsed on a blotter-covered suction table. A final application of sodium borohydride neutralized any remaining hydrogen peroxide residue, and the artwork was rinsed again.

Despite being relaxed with water throughout the treatment, the paper support still did not lie flat enough to be pressed dry between blotters. This is often the case with art on paper. Water resistant media (e.g., oil based printing ink) or as in this case, long-term distortion, will prevent the paper from lying flat even when wet. Drying and flattening between blotters would cause creases to be pressed into the paper.

This is when stretch drying can be used to advantage. The edges of the humidified sheets are clamped with blotters and weights. As the paper sheet dries, it shrinks and pulls itself flat. Stretch drying is also useful when flattening pressure sensitive media such as pastel and charcoal. The Dallaire drawing qualified for stretch drying on both counts and was successfully flattened using this method. Although some discolouration does remain in the paper support, this treatment improved the overall appearance while protecting the medium from being damaged.

Previously: A Collaborative Conservation Project
Next issue: Emily Carr – A Detective Story

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 Fri, Nov 7, 2008