Modern and contemporary art
The division between traditional and modern art is not just a matter of a new visual idiom, but is also reflected in the use of new materials and techniques.
This development, combined with the growing importance of the concept of the work of art, means that the conservation and restoration of modern and contemporary works of art require a specific approach.
In order to achieve a treatment plan we abide by the Model of decision making taken from the publication “Modern Art: Who cares?” which was published by ICN. The publication provides us with a methodological framework that enables us to formulate discrepancies between the current condition of the work and the implied meaning. In doing so we can survey treatment options and weigh them carefully against each other. During this process the authenticity principles – as formulated by Nicole Ex – are also being considered. Both the theory of art and an investigation of materials and technical principals are of the utmost importance in order to be able to accomplish an in-depth analysis and situation.
A conservation or restoration treatment of both modern and contemporary art needs a comprehensive approach. Interdisciplinary proceedings and communicating findings and experiences with others working in this area of expertise is essential. By internally enabling the sharing of knowledge and multidisciplinary expertise combined with extended research facilities, IPARC offers an ideal structure to also execute the many pilots, inherent to the field of conservation- and restoration treatment.
A conservator of paintings repairs damaged and soiled paintings. This involves investigating the state of the paint, removing the painting from its frame or other support and conserving and/or restoring the support (canvas, panel, copperplate, cardboard etc.) and the pictorial layer (paint, pigment, charcoal, pastel etc.). Depending on the damage, any previous treatment and the artist’s technique, on the basis of a thorough preliminary examination an appropriate treatment plan is presented.
Conservation includes treatment in which the painting, via minimal and reversible direct interventions (what is known as curative conservation) or indirect measures (preventive conservation), is consolidated and further disintegration is counteracted. Restoration implies, in addition to conservation, more thoroughgoing interventions such as lining, cleaning and retouching with respect for the work’s aesthetic, historical and physical integrity.
A painting conservator can work either on-site (in situations where the exceptional art-historical and/or insurance value of a painting dictate this or where transport is not warranted because of the measurements and/or condition of the work) or in our workshop.
Polychromatic restoration refers to preserved sculptures and ornaments that are painted, usually in many colours, or ‘polychrome’. Wooden, stone and plaster sculptures were often painted to bring the sculpture – as it were – to life.
Because the original polychrome layers often disappear over time and/or are painted over, every treatment depends on the form, age, state of conservation and of the carrier. The actions performed by a polychromatic restorer can vary from cleaning, over fixation of the layers of paint, consolidation of the carrier, repairing and following lacunas, to gilding and retouching.
In view of optimal realization of restoration techniques and in order to meet the necessary requirements of collection managers, IPARC offers diagnostic radio imaging (RX) in order to achieve an exact representation of the work’s structural buildup and composition.
For the conservation and restoration of stone and stone-like materials the examinations and treatments are performed on (non-)polychrome sculptures made of limestone, sandstone, granite, marble, alabaster, (glazed) terracotta, stucco, gypsum, concrete, mortar…
Assignments range from objects from museum collections, standalone sculptures, relieves and architectural ornaments in profane and religious interiors and exteriors like sculpted window and door frames, stucco ceilings, memorial stones, altars, rood screens and church portals.
In view of the interrelation of such assignments with architectural works material-technical studies and preliminary examinations are also frequently performed.
The textile studio conserves and restores a wide range of fabrics of different types of costumes and clothes, accessories, archaeological and ethnographic textile, as well as religious textile, samplers, banners and flags, fabrics for interior decoration and contemporary creations made of or with textile.
Objects and art objects in textile can be made of different kinds of natural and synthetic fibres. These fibres undergo a natural process of decay, which causes visible and invisible damage. The damage could include discolouration, brown spots, lacunas, bald and worn patches, folds, pollution and can significantly weaken the textile fibre.
For an adequate treatment it is important to know the origin of the textile, more specifically which textile fibre was used for the production and which weave was applied. These analyses are conducted at the IPARC laboratory.
The treatment of textile can consist of either conservatory or restorative interventions. Conservation, focused on stabilising the current condition, may consist of: removing dust and dirt, consolidating cracks and smoothing folds, supporting weak parts and camouflaging of holes and missing parts.
The restoration takes it one step further: missing parts can be complemented, for example, or perished materials are replaced by new material. The original appearance of the object is more important in this case, compared to a conservation. Several techniques are used in the conservation-restoration of textile: sewing techniques with different natural and synthetic threads, but also gluing techniques using glue types which are thermoplastic and reversible.
For tapestries we refer to Royal Tapestry Manufacturers De Wit in Mechelen.
The field of wood restoration is a very extensive one. Assignments can vary from ornate cabinets in museums to old church furniture. The discipline is not restricted to furniture: all wooden objects are dealt with in this branch of restoration.
The preliminary examination determines the eventual conservation and/or restoration treatment. A variety of contemporary investigative techniques are employed in carrying out the final restoration. In concrete terms, this could mean searching for the appropriate glueing technique and wood type or deciding on a treatment for the preservation of a historical finishing coat. The discipline has, moreover, a major craft component. Knowledge of best practice and the practical (ongoing) use of old techniques are always important.
The restoration of wood, it should be pointed out, has developed greatly over the last two decades as a result of key advances in scientific knowledge. Conservation is now favoured as the first choice; restoration is undertaken where ethically justifiable. Here too reversibility and the maximum preservation of the original material are considerations – principles that were not so widely observed in traditional wood restoration. In order to respond to these requirements, a wood conservator constantly makes use of contemporary materials and scientific research methods and techniques of analysis in the search for the most appropriate treatment.
The conservation and restoration of metal object includes juwels and ornaments, sculptures, furniture, historical weapons, instruments and machines. Metal occurs more than one would think; in interiors, as a medium for paintings, it could be part of a structural and/or ornamental object as well as making up architectural ornaments (both inside and outside). Objects can consist of different metals and amalgams orbase metals like, lead, pewter, iron, aluminum and precious metals like silver, gold and copper. Every metal or alloy requires a specific method and technique for treatment.
Standard or typical damage that occurs in surface pollution may be caused by dust, wax, deteriorated layers of protective varnishes, a buildup of moist and/or oil residue. The presence of pollution can subsequently cause a secondary typical phenomenon namely corrosion. Corrosion is caused by moist and humidity, polluents and the use of inadequate cleaning substances. Unfortunately corrosion is an irreversible process and results in a loss of medium. We can, however delay the process using the correct and specific treatment and conservation methods. Eventually there is also physical damage like dents, fractures and tears caused by accidents that might occur, as well as advanced corrosion and metal fatigue.
The treatments we offer predominantly consist of surface cleansing, corrosion treatment en the repairing of physical damage. We do of course distinguish between mechanical, chemical and electrolytical treatments.
In order to establish the correct method of treatment for any particular object we will thoroughly analyze the medium-specific technical aspects using techniques like microscopy, electrolysis and XRF-analysis.
Paper & visual media
The restoration and conservation of paper and visual media includes advice on and treatment of a diverse range of old, modern en contemporary paper (art)objects and photography. As such there are documents and art and objects in paper which include manuscripts, pictures, engravings, etching, (chromomatic)lithography, prints, cravings, drawings (ink, pencil, coal, pastels) – watercolours and gouache, kalkpapier, architectural drawings, blueprints, posters, and more. Apart from that we also treat documents from archives, paper documentary heritage including akten, letters, cards, posters, brochures etc. as well as historical and contemporary phtography.
Objects in paper are being treated first and foremost when the integrity of the object is compromised. Other motivators could be the enhancing of legibility, the delaying of the deterioration and/or enhancing the aesthetics of the object. Decay may be assigned to interior factors, physical-chemical causes, mechanical or biological damage.
Conservation treatment mostly focusses on stabilizing the current state. Restoration however aims at repairing and restoring conditions. Reversibility, minimal intervention and clearly traceable procedures are pivotal in restoration. The most important methods of treatment that we offer are: dry cleansing of the surface, DE acidify, buffering, treatment of ink-related damage, repairing of tears, removing traces of glue, labels and cello tape, doubling and reinforcing weakened parts of the object as well as other surfaces using Japanese paper. In addition we can also perform the following treatments: removing stains, treatments of water damage, treatment of foxing, adding fibers and fiber filling, touching up and treatment of insect or mould touched parts of the object.
Apart from treating the photograph as an object of physical appearance we also offer the possibility to digitally restore photographs. We do this by stabilizing the object and providing a proper method of conservation while work is being done on the digitalized version of the object.
Further possbilities pertaining to professional collections are: drawing up the damage report, making up the damage inventory (physical condition of the collection)and EHBO books-minimal intervention.