After many years on display in a departure lounge at Vancouver International Airport, Joe Averages large acrylic painting Space Ship Go Bye Bye had sustained significant damage. Unprotected by any glass, the work, made up of four canvases spanning about 6 metres (20 feet) across, had hung above a row of seats, leaving it wide open to curious hands and marauding snacks.
Accretions such as fingerprints, pen and pencil, and food and drink particles had left the surface appearing severely dirty and uneven, altering the artists original intent. The accretions were apparent throughout the whole piece but largely concentrated in the lower half of the canvases, especially along the bottom edge. Blows to the work from the front had also caused many large circular cracks that disfigured the image.
To return the paintings to their original appearance, the works were cleaned and the cracks were reduced. To remove all the loose dust and grime from the surface of the paintings, the pieces were first vacuumed with a soft brush and then cleaned with an absorbent smoke sponge to remove fingerprints and other ingrained surface dirt. A solution of water and organic solvents was then used to clean more stubborn stains such as pen and pencil marks and food and drink splatters.
To flatten the circular cracks, the areas around the cracks were lightly humidified to allow a very controlled application of water to the canvas. The cracks were then treated with sturgeon glue, set with heat and left under weights. In several areas, the cleaning had uncovered paint damaged by corrosive food and drink and disfiguring cracks and abrasions. These areas were inpainted with gouache media to match the colour and gloss of the original paint.
To protect the painting once it was returned to the airport, backing boards were installed to reduce vibration, slow changes in environmental temperature and humidity, and prevent blows to the canvas from the back during transport and installation. Acrylic glazing was installed in front of the painting to prevent further damage from the departure lounge elements.
Details of Space Ship Go Bye Bye before conservation treatment
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