My Year in Conservation – CPD

As Conservation processes increasingly towards becoming a true Profession , there will come a time when all those of us with responsibilities to objects will have to have formal qualifications. As it is those who are Accredited at this stage in their careers are required to maintain Continuous Professional Development – CPD. This helps everyone to keep up with developments, processes and philosophy as well as provide the opportunities to meet with like-minded fellows – particularly important when, if like me, you work independently.

Over the last year I’ve attended a number of workshops, conferences and seminars. The financial costs of CPD often gives pause for thought although both the National Portrait Gallery three day conference on‘Tudor and Jacobean Painting: Production, Influences, and Patronage’ was excellent value at £80 and the Picasso Paint Symposium in Marseille at 290 euros for ‘early bird’ registration wasn’t too monumental a fee. Added to that however are travel costs and accommodation and ‘lost’ working hours. Attending workshops and conferences when you are self-employed can be an expensive affair – ‘can I afford it? but then again, can I afford not to attend?” Hm.

Some lectures are free; the Courtauld often gives evening seminars to Conservators. ‘The Conservation of Wall Paintings in Georgia’ allowed me to meet again a former student from the Conservation Department at the University of Tbilisi as well as seeing remarkable photographs of medieval wall paintings in some of the churches and monasteries I had visited. Similarly the talk on  ‘Organic Materials in Wall Paintings’ although not especially innovative was confirmative. Attendance does tend to be limited to those living and working in the London area.

The highlight of my Conservation CPD year was the ‘From Can to Canvas’ symposium held in Marseille. The core research was into Picasso’s paint materials along with orbital areas interest in other artist’s, suppliers and historical research into paint materials in general.

Added to this rush of academia was the not insignificant bonus of being in the South of France. The highlight of the extra-curricula activities for me was visiting Corbusier’s ‘Unite’ d’Habitation’ the first modernist concrete apartment block built in 1947-52. It was to prove to be enormously influential and today is both accessible and utterly amazing. The building continues to function with both residential and business use, many architects having their prestige offices here. The original hotel and restaurant are open for business and roof terrace has the most spectacular views across Marseille.

Picasso’s paint materials were interesting too! but it brings me to one of the major bugbears of conferences – the post prints, where are they?? One conference I went to in 2000 – ‘Big Pictures’ – took over 5 years to produce post prints!

A conference held in Valencia last year ‘New Insights In The Cleaning of Paintings’ was outstanding both in its success and in not yet having produced the post prints. Conservators referencing the information have to resort to emailing and calling fellow attendees to cross reference notes taken in the dark or asking the speakers directly for a copy of their paper. Conference preprints would be the ideal, I seem to remember in my early career this being common practice, enabling annotation during presentations. So why when presentations are already prepared (& paid for) can they not be produced in advance?  The delay for post prints is not good professional practice particularly given the cost of international conferences.

The Tate Gallery in association with the British Association of Painting Conservators & Restorers produced a fantastic seminar and workshop on Acrylic paint. The ongoing Tate/AXA project presented research into modern materials followed by a practical workshop.  Workshops are inspirational, making reading about the materials and techniques so much more informative.

One other NPG seminar this year ‘The Sticking Point’ (£70) – glue, no irony here when I say how interesting is that! We all marveled at the wonders of adhesives, how we stick the things we work on, be it canvas to canvas, paint to support, wood to wood.

Pigments, paints, adhesives, materials and techniques were the point of my attendance over the last year of seminars, conferences and workshops. If I were asked to pick out one thing that I learned in particular though it would be from the Valencia conference and Richard Wolbers talking about the use of deionised water. Do not use it, the ions from the paints surface migrate back into the deionisedwater being used to clean it.

Interesting….

…if only I had the post prints…

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