Restoration of two collection works complete
A major project that has been going on behind the scenes this past year is the conservation treatment and reframing of two taonga in the Gallery’s permanent collection. We are pleased to inform you this mahi is now complete with both works, The Trawlers by Rudolf Gopas and The Chair by Philip Clairmont returned to the Gallery in November. This undertaking would not have been possible without the successful fundraising initiative of the AAG Committee in July 2018 called the 100+ Challenge which raised a total of $2,758 to be used to fund this conservation by Painting Conservator Olivia Pitts and reframing by David Trerise of City Art Depot.
The work proved to be of note for Painting Conservator Olivia Pitts, who share the experience with her peers in the newsletter for New Zealand Conservators of Cultural Materials (NZCCM).
She stated, “It was wonderful to have these two works in the studio at the same time, as Gopas was a strong influence on Clairmont. The Chair is painted on loose hessian canvas, and could not be displayed vertically in its state prior to treatment.”
One of the joys of working at the Gallery is the opportunity to come across surprises and little secrets contained in artworks or, in the case of our Clairmont, the back of the artwork (see image below).
The Chair, which is painted on loose hessian had sustained long display periods in the years after its production in 1978, and in the past five years was unable to be displayed or stored vertically due to its original mounting method.
Upon removing the work from its original support, Olivia documented an unfinished work on the back of the hessian containing the familiar energetic and expressionist marks synonymous with Clairmont’s work. Although creating drawings or preliminary marks on the verso of materials is common practice with many artists, the discovery of this work had the Gallery team in an excited buzz. With the restoration and reframing of The Chair now complete, the unfinished work is once again hidden from sight, however the design of the new backing support will enable future restoration work to be done with ease and with minimal strain on the painting.
Left | Philip Clairmont, The Chair, oil on hessian, 1978.
Right | Philip Clairmont, The Chair (verso), oil on hessian, 1978
Work began with a surface cleaning for The Trawlers which dramatically improving the painting’s appearance. The work also had small areas of missing paint filled and inpainted. Interestingly enough through the records at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (previous owners who gifted the work to our collection) we found out this work has undergone previous conservation treatment back in 1989 when the work’s varnish was replaced. Unfortunately, the varnish has now discoloured which has compromised the aesthetics of the work and would require further conservation treatment to remove in the future.
Rudolph Gopas, The Trawlers, oil & tempera, 1965
These works are both now display worthy and we can’t wait to show them off through our changing exhibition programme in the coming year.