School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    Affandi's Materials and Techniques: A Preliminary Technical Art Study of Paintings from the 1950s
    Sumichan, Lia ( 2019)
    Affandi (1907-1990) is an influential figure in Indonesian art history, particularly in the birth and development of modern Indonesian art. His oeuvre, widely recognised among public institutions and private collectors, remains of undoubted importance and prominence to date. A self-taught artist with expressive style, Affandi is mostly known for his unconventional method of painting technique using artists' quality oil paints of buttery consistency directly squeezed from their tubes and straight onto the canvas, resulting in strong strokes of impasto. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to Affandi's existing scholarship that is mostly situated in an art historical and curatorial discourse through an object-centred technical analysis approach. This results in the preliminary findings on Affandi's painting materials, informed understanding of the artist's creative practice, insight into the paint's degradation pathway and how conservation can contribute to the respect and longevity of his works. It also highlights the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in technical art study in order to achieve a robust and comprehensive result. The study focuses on three oil on canvas paintings produced in the 1950s: A Nude with Two Cats (1952), Affandi, Raka & Iwan (ARI) (1957-58) and Barong Mekiis (1959). Each painting is studied using non-invasive examination that is supplemented with archival sources of news clippings and the artist's journal, followed by complimentary analytical techniques such as optical microscopy, p-XRF, FTIR-ATR, SEM-EDS and SEM-BSE. Results demonstrate that the paintings are comprised of wooden stretcher with crossmembers, primed linen and cotton canvases, distinctive iron tacks, image layer composed of several diameters of paint impasto and localised surface coating. Instrumental analyses of paint samples provide information on the organic and inorganic components of the paint composition such as aged oil medium, barium sulphate, calcium carbonate, zinc white, lead carbonate and metal stearates.
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    The characterisation of pigments and resins from church panel paintings in Wadeye, NT
    Brennan, Jessica Rachel ( 2019)
    In Wadeye (Port Keats) around 1960, Nym Bunduck and a group of senior Murrinhpatha men produced a series of paintings to adorn the church altar. Leo Melpi, who witnessed their creation as an adolescent, said the artists acquired their red, yellow and white pigments from local ochre and clay quarries, and the binding resin from the Peanut tree (Sterculia quadrifida). A multidisciplinary and community-driven approach was taken to inform this investigation, engaging both ethnographic and scientific data sets. A combined methodology was used to determine the composition of the paint samples to confirm whether they were based on natural earth pigments and resins sourced from the Wadeye area, and this included: FTIRATR, XRF and SEM-EDS analyses; interviews; historical data and literature; and the paintings themselves. The aim of this enquiry was to expand on local knowledge from historical accounts and to provide a comprehensive understanding of the materials, their properties, behaviour and history, with the sight to assisting the longterm conservation of the unique artworks.
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    Funding cultural heritage conservation: An evaluation of the National Lottery Good Causes funding scheme in the United Kingdom and potential applications for the Australian cultural heritage conservation sector
    Gamboz, Gloria ( 2019)
    Public funding for cultural materials conservation in Australia is under continuing pressure, with limited museum budgets and scant resources for conservation in regional areas. In the United Kingdom, the National Lottery Good Causes funding scheme provides a large pool of funding for cultural heritage conservation, however there is limited research exploring the relationship between lottery funding and the conservation profession. Using historical research and a survey of conservators working in the United Kingdom, this thesis aims to evaluate both the intrinsic value of this funding model and its impact on the profession. The research concludes that lottery funding has engendered both positive and unintended consequences in the United Kingdom, and that implementation of a comparable Australian model may hold similar implications for cultural materials conservation in Australia.
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    Considering Costa Scena: using object biography to deal with the 'myth' around a family heirloom
    Vearing, Emily ( 2018)
    This study uses visual investigative techniques and art historical research to build a context for an English maritime panorama on paper, titled Costa Scena or a cruise along the southern coast of Kent. This panorama has been passed down through several generations since the family's migration to Australia in the late 19th century. It belongs to a series of aquatints attributed to Robert Havell or his son, Robert Havell Jnr, produced c. 1823 but appears to be a preparatory drawing used in the printmaking process. A number of the aquatints have been identified in the USA and UK. The primary goal of this project has been to provide the current custodian and his family with a better understanding of their family heirloom; where it sits within their family history, and its place in the history of British maritime art and printmaking.
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    Framing Polaroid cameras in the conservation of plastics in museums collections
    Watson, Katrina ( 2018)
    This thesis describes research undertaken to determine the identity and condition of the plastics present in Polaroid Land cameras in the collections of Museums Victoria. It forms part of a larger, Australia wide research project investigating the presence and prevalence of 'malignant' plastics-cellulose nitrate, cellulose acetate, polyvinyl chloride and polyurethane-in museum collections (Australian Research Council 2017). A collection survey was completed to assess condition and Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy was used as a rapid and non-invasive in-situ method for the identification of plastics. Results revealed that over 70% of the cameras were in good condition overall. FTIR analysis identified 19 different plastics across the collection, including the presence of one or more malignant plastics in almost 80% of the cameras assessed. The research also revealed the difficulties associated with the use of FTIR spectroscopy for three-dimensional objects such as cameras-19% of the plastic elements selected for FTIR analysis could not be tested due to their shape-resulting in two plastic groups remaining unidentified, one of which is present on in over 40% of the cameras in the collection. Despite this, the results of this research can be used as the basis for the development of preservation strategies for the collection and, given the high numbers of cameras with malignant plastics, recommendations for appropriate long-term storage and preservation
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    Investigation into the behaviour of hydrogenated castor oil in modern oil paints
    Vernon, Kim ( 2018)
    In recent years there have been reports of hydrogenated castor oil (also known as HCO or castor wax) being used as an additive in commercial artists' oil paints by various oil paint manufacturers. Izzo noted that hydrogenated castor oil had been used in formulations by several modern oil paint manufacturers as a stabiliser and is 'normally added up to 2% by weight' (2010, p. 24). The addition of HCO to oil paint formulations is possibly due to its function as: a rheology modifier to improve handling properties and perhaps the perceived quality of the paint; a stabiliser to reduce separation of pigment and binder in the tube; and as an extender to 'bulk out' the more expensive pigments or to reduce the tinting strength of pigments like the modern synthetic organic colours. While Osmond considers the possible destabilising effects of HCO as a paint additive in zinc oxide in oil based paints (2014, p. 274). Given these concerns, this thesis investigates the behaviour of hydrogenated castor oil in oil paint films through materials analysis and discussion with an artist oil paint manufacturer. Fresh paint films with known formulations were milled and prepared for analysis with the aim to assess the effect of HCO on the polymerisation of the drying oil by mapping the presence, concentration and ratio of fatty acid chains at various stages of accelerated ageing in varying simulated climates. Films pigmented with titanium white (TiO2) and quinacridone red (C20H12N2O2) were prepared. Control and aged films with and without HCO were analysed with FTIR-ATR, GC-MS, colorimetry and gloss measurements to assess their behaviour, polymerisation, gloss, chroma and yellowing in the paint films. The inclusion of HCO at concentrations up to 5% by weight of the oil content (1.25% of the pigment weight) was found to alter the oxidation/polymerisation of the paint films at the paint-surface and paint-support interfaces. The Fourier transform infrared - attenuated total reflectance (FTIR-ATR) and gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis at both interfaces focused on the spectral output of the C=O carbonyl bond at 1740cm-1 and its broadening or shifting with age; the apparent formation of metal carboxylates at ~1570 cm-1; changes in azelaic, palmitic, oleic and stearic fatty acid ratios; and pigmentation with titanium white (TiO2) and quinacridone red (C20H12N2O2). Results showed that the characteristics of aged paints with the HCO additive were different to those without the additive, while qualitative interview data from paint manufacturer David Coles also sheds light on the reasons why HCO is fast becoming an additive preferred by artists' oil paint manufacturers and what its effects are in terms of paint handling and artistic production. Together this thesis has demonstrated that the commercial use of HCO in contemporary oil paints may potentially cause significant long term changes in behaviour in artists' modern oil paints in comparison to non-HCO paints.
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    A preliminary investigation into the influence of archaeological contents on the condition of polyethylene packing bags
    Thompson, Karen ( 2018)
    Plastics in packing and storage is rarely afforded more than cursory mention, though arguably this is where museums will find a substantial volume of their plastics. The most significant collection risk from plastic failure is the resultant dissociation - loss of labelling information, materials losing critical contextual relationships - eroding research value. The aim of this research was to fill this apparent gap in literature. First, to assess the condition of plastic bags used to pack archaeological material. Then to investigate whether the nature of the contents, or characteristics of the plastic bags, influences the condition of the plastic packing material. It was hoped guidelines for monitoring packing material may also be made. The broader intent being to protect the integrity of the knowledge intrinsic in archaeological assemblages against dissociation. Selected plastic bags used to pack the 'Casselden Place' archaeological assemblage, excavated in 2002-03, held at Museums Victoria, were the case study for the observational survey. Collected data was interrogated by statistical multi-variate analysis to identify factors associated with degradation characteristics, specifically the bag yellowing observed. A small number of bags were then subjected to FTIR-ATR analysis. In total, 3229 plastic self-seal packing bags from 111 storage boxes were surveyed. Statistical analysis of the observational data indicated ceramic finds are more likely to be in yellower bags; with glass next most likely. Specific bag stocks appear to exhibit different experience, with the smaller bags around 7.7cm by 11.4cm showing particular yellowing. Differences between FTIR-ATR spectra for yellowing bags containing ceramic versus glass were found only to be subtle, and a promising area for future material-science research.
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    Unfolding Brett Whiteley's New York Sketchbook: a materials analysis and conservation assessment
    Todd, Jennifer ( 2018)
    New York Sketchbook is an assemblage artwork created by Australian artist Brett Whiteley during his time in America in 1967. The artwork was experiencing degradation issues, particularly of the plastic sheets on each of the panels, as well as the carrier tape attaching the plastic sheets to the artwork and backing board, making it unstable for display in its intended format, as a concertina. Analysis was conducted on inorganic and organic materials present in the artwork, in particular the plastic sheets and carrier tape using handheld X-Ray Fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) and Fourier Transform Infrared - Attenuated Total Reflection (FTIR-ATR). This information was used to inform a set of recommendations for the conservation, future storage, and display of New York Sketchbook.
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    Verifiable evidence: an investigation into the levels of certainty and requirements for proof in art authentication
    Taylor, Alexandra ( 2018)
    The investigative framework for authentication begins with the big question: who painted it? From this, rudimentary observation and careful experimentation can inform the identification of anomalies, which in turn add weight in favour of a theory. Considerations of authenticity are context dependent, and it follows that data is not evidence 'until it can be securely used to inform a hypothesis' (Sloggett 2014 a., p. 133). The material experience and intellectual themes surrounding the process of authentication enumerate the various methods and techniques in examination and analysis. This thesis explores the three core pathways that together inform an evidentiary framework: history, provenance and technical examination. How can expertise and connoisseurship best inform an investigation? How verifiable are provenance claims? How effective and/or problematic can scholarly research be? What is the role of science in authenticating art works? By using a current case study to identify the levels of certainty and requirements for proof in art authentication, this project presents a focused research agenda around what constitutes the term verifiable and what it means to have verifiable evidence. This research endeavours to understand how materials-based analysis, provenance documentation and art historical research might be applied within the legal-evidentiary framework by valuing their merits as well as their limitations.
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    George Colville (1887-1970): materials investigation of the canvas oil painting Waratah Bay (c. 1949) and other composite supported paintings
    Tobin, Gen ( 2018)
    Australia has a history of artists using wood composite and paperboard supports, most of which were not originally intended for artist use. Discussion on the conservation of these types of supports is seemingly rare, despite the fact that they routinely appear as primary support structures for modern paintings, sometimes often attached to canvas supports. This thesis explores decision making in the removal or retention of paper supports attached to oil paintings based on an examination of the oil painting on paperboard Waratah Bay (c.1949) by Australian post- modern painter George Garden Colville (1887-1970. This painting has sustained water damage resulting in warping and some delamination to corners of the support. The thinness of the support, presence of original inscriptions and various accretions on the verso and inadequate housing for the artwork presented a challenge for treatment decisions. To the authors knowledge no conservation research has been undertaken on the materials used by George Colville despite his prolific career as a landscape painter and the substantial body of his paintings within Australian private, regional and interstate collections. Testing conducted on the painting revealed chemical instabilities and raised questions of the conservation of wood composite materials. A study of a number of paintings by George Colville from five collections were assessed and opportunity arose for further analysis of a selection of paintings by the artist from the Australian War Memorial Mitchell collection, further informing an understanding of the methods of support construction employed by this artist. Technical analysis of selected pigments, glue, ground and support materials were conducted on Waratah Bay with the view to informing observations made during a physical examination of the painting. It is hoped these findings may contribute to an understanding of Colville's materials and techniques and raise awareness of the need for discussion of the challenges posed by the conservation of engineered paperboard supports used in paintings.