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Subject: Oil paintings on Melamine-coated MDF

Oil paintings on Melamine-coated MDF

From: Steven Prins <sprins1102>
Date: Wednesday, February 8, 2006
We have recently received three paintings by a contemporary Chinese
artist that have been executed on what appears to be melamine-coated
MDF (medium density fiberboard).   The panels are a product of
Davidson Plywood, Chino, CA. I am awaiting further information from
the company regarding the composition and manufacture of these

The material was obtained at a retail store, i.e. Home Depot.   The
coated surface is white and smooth, with a slightly pebbled texture.
This appeals to the artist, who paints in a realistic manner, as a
readily available alternative to traditional gessoed panels.
Especially as such materials are widely held to be durable and
stable, by contractor's standards.

However, it has proven to be less than satisfactory as a stable
support for paintings.   The panels have developed a very
problematic defect:   under various circumstances, the melamine
coating has begun to delaminate from the panel support.   This was
first detected as the result of a painting shifting in its frame. At
the points where the painting was secured in the frame blisters
developed that give the impression that the melamine layer was
pushed up physically or delaminated due to swelling.   Curious about
these blisters, the owner of the painting picked at one corner and
found that they could readily begin to peel the melamine from the
MDF.   Instructions for proper installation on a warning label on
the verso of one of the panels suggest that the material may be
hygroscopic and is prone to considerable expansion under high
humidity (1/4 inch per 96 inch length).

Initially this was thought to be an isolated instance.   Then it was
discovered that a similar defect had developed along incisions that
the artist made in the surface of the panel during the course of
executing the painting.   The melamine coating began to shrink away
from the incision, exposing the underlying MDF.   At some points the
melamine has begun to delaminate as well, giving rise to rather
broad blisters along the incision.

Inspection of a third painting revealed points of rupture and
incipient cleavage/peeling along its edges at points of impact.

This message is posted to inform colleagues who may encounter
similar materials in use by contemporary artists.   It is also a
call for information regarding analysis and treatment of such
materials.   Replies from conservators with experience with
commercially coated MDF panel supports would be greatly appreciated.

Steven Prins
Conservator of Paintings
Steven Prins and Company
1570 Pacheco, Suite A-W5
Santa Fe NM  87505
sprins1102 [at] aol__com

                  Conservation DistList Instance 19:36
                Distributed: Wednesday, February 8, 2006
                       Message Id: cdl-19-36-021
Received on Wednesday, 8 February, 2006

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