Last weekend, art conservator Claire Armedilla was at Artinformal Makati to give pointers on conservation. Armedilla left her corporate career in 2015 in order to pursue her passion for art restoration full-time. Much of her knowledge was built from her own personal library of resource materials, like books and documentaries, while gaining hands-on training and experience through workshops and seminars.
The talk Armedilla gave was curated specifically for the day’s audience: collectors looking for practical ways to care for their personal art collection. It was broken down into the four parts of a painting: Wooden Support, Textile Support, the Paint Layer, and Varnish. During the workshops, she zeroed in on the issues surrounding each aspect, then proposed solutions for practical care.
Armedilla emphasizes the importance of properly preparing panel support or a canvas stretcher frame. Artists themselves should be aware of the proper way to mount a canvas on a stretcher. There are natural threats to wooden support such as wood pests, common wood rot and fungi, along with handling risks such as storage, transportation and exhibitions.
When there’s a fungal or insect attack, she advises the following: immediately isolate the infected artwork to avoid contaminating other artworks; treat or replace the stretcher and frame as soon as possible; clean the infected location; and fumigate the work, while making sure the cause of moisture is immediately identified and eliminated.
Seek wedged stretchers with keys to keep the canvas taut and protected. Mounting bumper pads at the back of the decorative frame (or stretcher for unframed works) keeps the art away from the wall, protecting the piece against wall moisture and temperature variations.
Armedilla says that the textile support of a work ages as a result of oxidation. The textile support loses its elasticity over time, making it brittle and susceptible to damage. In addition, radiation or a photo-chemical reaction is a result of prolonged exposure to bright light or the sun, which accelerates the textile damage. Even metals such as nails and staple wires coming into contact with canvas activate oxidation.
Again she points to the artists’ responsibility to choose treated linen canvas over untreated textile support. It’s important to keep a stable climate for artwork where they are displayed and stored, and to re-stretch canvas that has gone slack or formed bulges. To prevent the oxidation of nails, she suggests inserting cardboard or felt washers between the nail and the canvas.
According to Armedilla, the common problems and risks of the paint layer include wrinkling, yellowing, blanching, craqueleur, stretch bar marks, mold and damage by micro-organisms or insect droppings.
She discourages the use of linseed oil as it accelerates the darkening of the paint layer as well as the oxidation of textile support. To prevent primary yellowing, she suggests to occasionally expose stored paintings to bright rooms and LED light, as it produces little heat and does not have ultraviolet rays. Relative humidity should also be maintained to at least below 60 percent to prevent mold growth. You can also use classroom chalks in lieu of desiccants to help absorb moisture.
Other than retaining the depth and luminous quality of an art piece, varnish also serves as an artwork’s first level of defense against the atmosphere and other external factors.
To care for paintings, she encourages to regularly dust and clean rooms and artworks. Have the varnish removed, then have a fresh coat reapplied at certain time intervals. To reduce glare, angle the light at 30 degrees, with an added 5 degrees for larger frames and less 5 degrees to highlight textures.
One of the things Armedilla emphasized was the importance of putting conservation first, to take proper care of the works already on hand. Restoration only comes after, if and when needed.
To see Claire Armedla’s projects, follow her on Instagram at @artdoctorph.
Event photos courtesy of Artinformal
Images from Claire Armedilla’s presentation are sourced from the Internet