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Subject: Ethics and materials

Ethics and materials

From: Patricia Smithen <patricia_smithen>
Date: Tuesday, October 10, 1995
This is in response to Simon Hogg's query about advising artists on
the use of materials.

At the Canadian Conservation Institute we offer a seminar on "The
Permanence of Modern Artist's Materials" that deals specifically
with works of art on paper, canvas and solid supports and is
directed towards artists.  Our attitude is that artists should have
information available to them on the permanence on their materials
and techniques and then they are able to make informed decisions
about the materials they choose to use.  We do stress that we are
not artists, we are are conservators.  We do not discuss the
aesthetic aspects of the materials, but we do describe the basic
processes of degradation that are both inherent and exterior to the

The response we get from artists is wonderful.  They are very
grateful for the information and we often get the comment that they
wish this information had been available to them as students.  The
general feeling was that experimentation with respect to different
media and their use would still be a big part of their creative
process. However, they would have a better understanding of how
materials might interact and be able to provide better protection
(special framing, extra support) when dealing with potentially
fragile combinations.

Personally I feel that you should tell the artist that the material
will degrade and how it will degrade. The artist will then be aware
of the risks involved and can decide how important longevity is to
the art.  There are many materials out there and chances are that a
more permanent substitute can be found.

Patricia Smithen

                  Conservation DistList Instance 9:33
                 Distributed: Tuesday, October 10, 1995
                        Message Id: cdl-9-33-009
Received on Tuesday, 10 October, 1995

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