The Gallery’s two paper conservators are responsible for the care and preservation of approximately 9,500 art works on paper in the Collection. Works on paper include prints, drawings, watercolours, photographs, artists’ and illustrated books, as well as a variety of mixed media art works which incorporate paper. The types of works range from early nineteenth century Indian miniatures, delicate colonial watercolours to contemporary digital photographs and sculptural installations.
Works on paper are particularly sensitive to the environment around them and are susceptible to damage from a number of sources such as light, temperature, relative humidity, dust, insects, vibration as well as rough handling and vandalism. To counter potential harm from these elements, the paper conservators ensure that optimum environmental standards are met for every art work while in storage, on display or in transit. They also provide advice or assist with the installation of complex or fragile unframed works, such as sketchbooks, oversize photographs or multi-component pieces.
In consultation with the Gallery’s curators, the paper conservators undertake treatments that repair damage or alleviate future deterioration. Treatments may include reducing discolouration, repairing losses in paper, mending tears, adhering flaking media or replacing old mounts with acid-free materials. These interventions are made with a combined respect for the unique characteristics of the art work’s material make-up and an understanding of the artist’s creative process.
Paper conservator Stephanie Bailey examining a Margaret Forrest watercolour and gouache prior to treatment.
Art work credits:
Margaret Forrest Grevillea Leucopteris (White Plume Grevillea) 1880. Watercolour and gouache on fawn paper,
53.9 x 37.9 cm (sheet).
State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia.