2012 AICCM Paintings Group + 20th Century in Paint Symposium

The Meaning of Materials in
Modern and Contemporary Art

Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

10-11 December 2012

Welcome to the 2012 AICCM Paintings Group + 20th Century in Paint Symposium home page.

On Monday 10th December and Tuesday 11th December 2012 at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM) Paintings Special Interest Group symposium combined with the final year symposium for The Twentieth Century in Paint Australia Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project. The symposium followed the weekend of opening events for 'The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' (8-9 December) at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art.

Items from Sidney Nolan Wahroonga studio
Artists' Materials Archive, Conservation Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales
Gift of Jinx Nolan 2006 Photograph: © AGNSW

With a focus on the Asia Pacific's diverse climate and history, the symposium aimed to explore questions around artists' intentions towards the materials they use, including the social significance of material choices. For example, how are aspects of material choice framed by availability, geography, culture and artistic intent; how do contemporary art materials age; and how does this develop relationships between artists, collectors and those involved in the care of artworks. The symposium focussed on painters, but included discussion of other media.

Symposium Themes

  • artists' intent toward their materials
  • the impact of culture and geography on artists' material choices
  • the conservation implications of material choices
  • tools for understanding materials

Symposium Review

The Meaning of Materials in Modern and Contemporary Art, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane
10-11 December 2012
by Jennifer Walker, Asian Paintings Conservator, Brisbane

The Meaning of Materials in Modern and Contemporary Art brought presenters from the Twentieth Century in Paint Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project, and the AICCM Paintings Special Interest Group, together with national and international arts specialists to the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). The organising committee included members from the Centre for the Conservation of Cultural Materials at the University of Melbourne, David Stein Co, Sydney and QAGOMA. Celebrating diversity and connections between Asia - Pacific and Australian arts, evolving perspectives were presented regarding cultural influences on artists' choice of materials, their techniques, and scientific case studies for preserving contemporary arts.

The audience of 86 attendees, were taken for a tour of continuing influences on Aboriginal Art, activated along early trade routes between Sulawesi and northern coastlines of Arnhem Land, by University of Melbourne Professors Robyn Sloggett and Marcia Langton. Travelling vicariously with Curator of Pacific Art, Ruth McDougall, we discovered how QAGOMA commissioned Papua New Guinea artists to create spirit house exhibits for the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial, with consideration for future conservation needs. Impressive is the significance these artworks continue to carry with their creation stories, and they remain outstanding examples of commissioned contemporary arts.

With New York MoMA paintings conservator Michael Duffy, we experienced sub-surface X-ray views for treatments on the encaustic wax sculpture and painting techniques of artists including Jasper Johns. Getty Conservation Institute Senior Scientist and Head of Modern and Contemporary Art Research, Dr Tom Learner presented conservation repairs for the viscous surface texture of a large (12' x 8') cast resin sculpture, aligned with a living artist's original intent. TATE's Senior Conservation Scientist, Dr Bronwyn Ormsby, detailed research strides and aqueous cleaning impacts on modern acrylic paintings, sparking discussions on the next Cleaning Acrylic Paintings (CAPs) Workshop proposed for Sydney in late 2013.

Australian conservators contributed informative dialogues on 20th century painting materials used by local artists. Advances in Synchrotron imaging of Streeton (and Degas) paintings in the National Gallery of Victoria collection, conducted by Senior Conservator David Thurrowgood, revealed unexpected underpaintings. National Gallery of Australia conservator, Sharon Alcock discussed Rover Thomas' techniques for ochres, binders, and the use of local resins and gums. Art Gallery of New South Wales? Head of Paintings conservation, Paula Dredge, using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), has confirmed that Sidney Nolan's iconic painting of Ned Kelly's black helmets required a departure from his usual Ripolin® brand oil paint. QAGOMA conservator Anne Carter gave a behind-the-scenes tour of the conservation lab. Her presentation discussed the influence that artist Ian Fairweather's allergy to oil based paints may have had on his choice of water based commercial paints in the later 1950s and 60s. Anne discussed the crossovers between paper and paintings conservation techniques used to stabilise Fairweather paintings. These information exchanges on recent artist materials, techniques, and developments in conservation science, are significantly complementing conservation treatment processes.

Having previously attended an international symposium on Conservation Ethics held in Seoul, the American Textile, and Art Conservators' conferences held in Honolulu, I consider this symposium in Queensland highlighted the value of actively engaging in dialogue with our colleagues near and abroad. As my first time attending an AICCM Paintings Group symposium, I gained a new appreciation for sharing information between artists, curators, scientists, and art conservators. Further, gaining new resources inspires research and work on early arts traditions of passing on skills and knowledge for conserving paintings on paper and silk. Many thanks for the excellence participants and symposium organizers brought to this noteworthy symposium.

Organising Committee

Dr Nicole Tse, ARC Post Doctorate Fellow, Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, The University of Melbourne

Gillian Osmond, Conservator, Paintings, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art and PhD candidate 20th Century in Paint

Katherine Rosenthal, Paintings Conservator David Stein & Co, Sydney

Anne Carter, Conservator, Paintings, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Jocelyn Evans, Conservator, Paintings, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Tim Ould, Research Assistant, Centre for Cultural materials Conservation, The University of Melbourne

For further information

Anne Carter
Conservator, Paintings
Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
Brisbane, Queensland
Dr Nicole Tse
ARC Post Doctoral Fellow
The Twentieth Century in Paint Chief Investigator
Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation
The University of Melbourne
Parkville, Victoria. Australia
© 2010
This website is hosted by:

Terms of use
The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
ABN 63 942 912 684
CRICOS Provider No: 00025B