Swansea University, Wales
‘Rape of Europa’ by Ceri Richards, 1964
The paintings hang in the Refectory in Fulton House and the redecoration of the hall provided a good opportunity to examine and clean the paintings. The enormous, 1.98 x 6.9 metre Triptych was found to be extremely heavy when it was removed from the wall at Swansea University. We found that the oil on canvas painting was adhered to plywood boards and then attached to an asbestos cement backing. A specialist asbestos team was brought in to make the paintings safe and to escort them back to the Bristol Studio. The paintings were extremely dirty and were surface cleaned with aqueous reagents. This made a big difference to the way the paintings looked but they still appeared yellow due to a discoloured varnish. The varnish was also blanched in areas and so it was decided that it should be removed. Following varnish removal, the colours appeared brighter and more saturated.
‘Life Lines’ by Glyn Jones, 1979.
This large wall hanging measuring H305cm x W620cm hangs on the wall opposite the Ceri Richards paintings. The hangings were very dusty and the nails holding the piece up were rusty. We were able to interview the artist to find out more about how the hanging was made. Glyn Jones used a blow torch to apply pitch and PVA medium to canvas and skrim fabric that he then attached to a geometric rope structure. Gouache paint was used and a solvent fixative spray allowed the colours to become imbibed into the PVA film. The hanging was made in six panels and then the horizontal rope ends glued together on site. These glued attachments had failed several times in the past and Jones had fixed them. With his permission we decided to come up with a new approach to these fixings. After cleaning the panels, we adhered magnets into the ends of the ropes so that they would click together easily. We reinforced the vertical ropes between the sections with nylon thread. Strong polyester was attached to the back of the top edge allowing a new hanging system where the strips were screwed into the wooden fixing battens. The hanging now looks much brighter and more colourful and detaching rope problem has been permanently resolved.
A big thank you to the maintenance team at the University who assisted us with the removal and re-installation of these two artworks!