Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Development of Schools Programmes for Learners with Special Needs

Twenty students from Rutherford College’s Satellite unit visited the Gallery last term to participate in our Signs and Symbols (shape, pattern and colour) pilot programme – including a Gallery and Studio session.

We began with a quick impromptu tour of parts of the Gallery (I couldn’t not – the kids were so excited to be here!) They loved it! It was a good way to introduce the idea of symbols – particularly shape, pattern and colour and of course, the Gallery. It would definitely be good to do this each time they visit so we can reinforce ideas/experiences, give them opportunities to remember and draw on past experiences here and gradually extend their experiences, responses and understandings. I want them to feel at home here. Posing questions in each space gave them something to focus on.

We then spent time in one of the Gallery spaces, looking at these two artworks:

Sandy Adsett, Waipuna, 1978
Gordon Walters, Genealogy 5, 1971
We looked closely at the work and spoke about what we noticed. In small groups the children manipulated a selection of different coloured shapes to help them understand the work better. Then they made their own patterns using the shapes provided, which we compared to the artwork.

The art making session in the studio allowed everyone to feel proud of their work. Each student chose a symbol that said something about them (e.g. plane, computer, cat) and made a stencil which they drew around to make 8-12 identical shapes in a colour(s) of their choice. They experimented with pattern by moving the shapes around their chosen background paper. The use of more technical terms such as overlapping, reflecting and rotating then modelling what I meant was good for some of the students when making their patterns. They chose their favourite pattern and glued it in place.

They shared and reflected on their work. How can you tell who made this? What could it tell us about the person? Does this pattern/shape seem to match the person who made it? How? How do the colours tell us about the person who made it? Which patterns are similar? How? How could you describe the patterns?

Here’s some of the work made by the students in the studio session:

A focus on pattern, shape and colour seemed appropriate for this group. They were able to draw on prior knowledge and make connections with things they are familiar with. They could be successful but still had the opportunity to learn some new ideas through making comparisons, observing closely and participating in an activity related to the work.

Future considerations: 

I would like to visit the regular groups at their school so I can see how the teachers work and interact with them and the types of programmes they participate in. Also as a way of building my relationship with them, getting to know them and their needs better (and their teachers) and for my own professional development.

Where to now?

Five other schools have booked in to participate in this pilot programme over the next few weeks. Once I have taught everyone, received feedback from the teachers and made changes where necessary, I would like to make this programme part of our standard programmes permanently on offer to schools. Then on to the next pilot programme – Portraiture and Identity!

As the two artworks used above are no longer on show in the Gallery we will use the works below:

Jonathan Jones, untitled (sum of the parts), 2010/2014 
Michael Parekowhai, The Bosom of Abraham, 1999
– Mandy Jakich, Educator LEOTC

Image credits:

Sandy Adsett
Waipuna 1978
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1995

Gordon Walters
Genealogy 5 1971
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Gift of Dame Jenny Gibbs in honour of Chris Saines, Gallery Director (1996-2013)

Jonathan Jones
Kamilaroi / Wiradjuri people

untitled (sum of the parts) 2010/2014
Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2010
Courtesy the artist and Tim Melville Gallery

Michael Parekowhai
The Bosom of Abraham 1999
Edition 2/14
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1999

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

On the Mend: Part II

An update on the conservation of Woman with a Floral Wreath 

Before treatment began
Last week I described how the painting had been removed from its old stretcher and the excess wax carefully removed. The next steps in the treatment plan are to mend the tear in the canvas before lining the canvas for support and to enable re-stretching before retouching the loss so it is no longer a focal point.

Mending the tear 

The fibres around the tear were broken and in disarray and some were sitting on the wrong side of the canvas covering original paint. To have any hope of getting a flat surface (crucial for achieving a perfect retouching) and recovering the hidden original paint meant hours under the microscope, removing old fill and carefully placing the fibres back into their original positions. These were supported by the addition of a few new threads where threads had been broken or were missing.

1. Under the microscope the mess of matted fibres embedded in the white fill is apparent  2. Looking at the same area with transmitted light, after the fill was removed and the fibres were aligned and new fibres were being added to fill in gaps. 

This highly delicate work can only be achieved under magnification.
Filling and lining 

The old losses were then filled and the painting was lined onto a new lining canvas using a vacuum table and with temperature control. After lining, the painting could be stretched onto a new stretcher.

Lining the painting

1. During lining the painting is under vacuum 2. The painting is stretched and ready for retouching
Varnishing and retouching 

The final stages of the treatment are the varnishing and mimetic retouching which aims to make the new repair invisible to the viewer.

Further research

Before a treatment begins, the painting is subjected to a thorough examination, and throughout the conservation process the conservator naturally gains a pretty intimate knowledge of a painting. Examination under magnification reveals just how the painting was made, identifying pigments, revealing the build-up of paint layers and changes since execution. Occasionally samples of paint can be taken and looking at these under strong magnification can reveal the painting’s composition. Two samples were taken from Woman with a Floral Wreath using a method shared in a previous post.

These samples shed light on how the ground was applied – unusually, in three distinct and separate layers.

A tiny sample of paint from the flesh tones of Woman with a Floral Wreath. The upper layer of paint shows a mixture of red, blue, yellow, black and white pigments used to create an area of flesh in shade. The bulk of the sample is three layers of white ground. 
The information gained from these will hopefully make it possible to make an informed estimate of the origin of the canvas. It is hoped that this research into provenance through technical examination will be continued after the treatment is complete. The discovery of French newsprint on the old stretcher, the ground structure and identification of pigments are all great leads for further research on the provenance of this painting.

Fragments of newsprint on the old stretcher
Please check back later for further exciting developments, and to see the painting after the treatment is complete!

– Genevieve Silvester, Paintings Conservation volunteer