The galleries may be closed, the walls may be bare, but there has been plenty going on behind the scenes in preparation for the fresh season of Ngā Toi│Arts Te Papa due to open on Friday 22nd August.
Many of the works destined for exhibition have required some loving care from our great team of conservators, framers, mount-makers and object support preparators based at Tory St. I’ve been fed a constant stream of photographs from paintings conservator, Linda Waters, showing some of the work that has been going on in the last throes of treating works to ready them for the new hang.
Tijana Cvetkovic and fellow Paintings Conservator Linda Waters reattaching a nineteenth-century painting by Gottfried Lindauer to the stretcher. The painting has been strengthened around the edge of the canvas.
Linda at work on Jeffrey Harris’s Self Portrait (1970). This painting posed an interesting dilemma, as it has marks from being in Harris’s studio which are considered a historical part of the painting and are to be left there. Linda and Curator Modern Art Chelsea Nichols discussed what approach to take in treating the paintings, considering the appearance of the painting carefully in order to decide what to remove and what to leave when attempting to clean the surface.
Kimi Taira, Paper Conservation intern, is preparing a pen and ink drawing by Toss Woollaston. His little pen and ink sketch Crossing the Red Sea (after Poussin)(1958)is having a dry surface clean front and back prior to humidification and flattening of the paper. Kimi had to consider the framers marks (or perhaps the artists, it is unclear) on the reverse when cleaning the paper to ensure the sheet was cleaned evenly but that the marks remained, similar to the considerations for the Harris Self Portrait.
This gem of a painting by Louis John Steele, Maori figures looking across an estuary (early 1900s) sits on an easel, as if performing a dress rehearsal for exhibition. It has been relieved of its rather nasty 1970s frame, complete with green velvet insert and brass label, and has had a more historically appropriate frame crafted by Matthew O’Reilly. Intrigued by the delicious paintwork, the paintings conservators have also taken a microscopic cross-section from the edge of the work so we can find out more about the artist’s process in building up paint and varnish layers.
Many contemporary paintings do away with frames altogether, such as the work Linda is working on here, which is a large unstretched canvas. This poses challenges for their display, as solutions need to be found so that the work can be hung without damaging the work itself. It is also preferable that any additions can be removed if necessary. Here, Linda is preparing a support strip for the back of the painting. This helps to stop the canvas distorting when the work is hung and is made of special materials so it doesn’t impact on the paint and canvas.
Watch this space for more stories about the behind-the-scenes preparations for Ngā Toi │Arts Te Papa over the next few weeks. And check out for the events planned for the opening weekend, Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th August here: http://www.arts.tepapa.govt.nz/events/.
Linda Waters, Painting Conservator
Rebecca Rice, Curator Historical New Zealand Art