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CURRENT COLUMN

Structural
Rigid Water Gels: New Treatment Options for Paper Conservators

Structural
Structural Remedies for Canvas Paintings

Digital
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 4: Digital-based Material

Photos
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 3: Photo-based Material

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 2: Paper-based Material

First Steps
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 1: The First Steps

Natural Dyes
The Use of Natural Dyes in Textile Conservation

Butterfly
A Relocation Project

Challenges of Preserving Contemporary Artwork

Preserve Your Investment through Art Conservation

A Project Completed: Heritage Preserved

Old and New Methods for Cleaning Paintings

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I? Part 2

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I?

The E.J. Hughes Mural: An Expanded Project

Is She or Is She Not an Emily

Treating Art with Sensitive Media

Malaspina Mural: An Update

For the Artist: Testing Your Materials

Conservator as Art Historian

Alum Sizing and the Art of W.J. Phillips

Treatment of an Elizabeth Keith Wood Block Print

Structural Treatment of an Emily Carr

The Treatment of a Monumental Wall Hanging

Changing Images

Preserving a Rare Record

Gold Leaf: Imitation and Genuine

The Case Against Canvas Backings

Heritage Colours: Research Discovers Original Colours

Lighting Your Art: Balancing Seeing and Protecting

The Double-Sided Emily Carr Painting

Choosing a Period Picture Frame

How to Identify a Picture Frame

Stretching Canvas and Restretching Artwork

Mounting Textiles

Aging Paintings:
Some Causes and Effects

Chine Collé Prints

What's Your Favourite Color?

Backing Removals

Rips, Holes and Tears

Filling in the Gaps

DIY – Preventative Care of Paintings

Frame it Right

Fire, Water and Smoke-Damaged Paintings

Inherent Vice

Saturated Problems:
A Water-Damaged Painting

Moldy Paper

Conserving Time

Conserving Paper: Dos and Don'ts

Repair of Textiles

Conserving Wood

Rescuing Endangered Murals

Repairing Acid-Matte Burn

Art Services & Materials
Exhibition Openings & Events


Conservation Corner Back

Cleaning Acrylic Paintings: A Dilemma Solved

by Nadine Power
conservationoffineart.com

Lists of formulations, samples of artificially soiled acrylic paints and vials of cleaning solutions made for a busy and educational workshop

Lists of formulations, samples of artificially soiled acrylic paints and vials of cleaning solutions made for a busy and educational workshop

Keeping up with new materials, techniques and, of course, technology is an important part of being a conservator. Until recently, cleaning acrylic painted surfaces was problematic, as little was known about the behaviour of acrylic films when water or solvents were introduced to the paint film. Most conservators used dry cleaning methods or experimented with water or saliva to remove imbibed grime. The results were often disappointing, and the use of water often risked unwanted alterations of the surface texture of the painting.

In August 2014, the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI), in part with the Getty Conservation Institute, hosted a workshop on the cleaning of acrylic painted surfaces (CAPS). Over four days, an intimate group of conservators gathered from around the world in Ottawa to hear several of the top conservation scientists discuss their latest findings.

The mornings were spent in lectures, learning about the molecular structures and physical properties of acrylic paint films, as well as about new cleaning solutions and their mechanisms of action. The afternoons were spent in the CCI laboratories, with participants watching demonstrations by expert painting conservators and trying out the new cleaning methods themselves.

The foundation of the CAPS system is that the conservator must first understand the properties of the paint film with which he or she is working and develop cleaning solutions customized to that structure. Participants reviewed the behaviour and aging properties of acrylic paint as well as the response of paint to water-based cleaning systems.

Participants also learned how to measure properties such as the pH and conductivity of painted surfaces – knowledge that would prepare them to tailor their cleaning solutions to a specific painting. Choosing aqueous or solvent-based cleaning systems, conservators can then alter the pH or conductivity and add chelating agents or surfactants, depending on the desired effect.

Each participant was given large samples of acrylic paint that had been aged for several years and artificially soiled to mimic the grime often found on the surface of indoor paintings (including grime from tobacco smoke, dust, fingerprints, and food and beverages). The group was then encouraged to experiment with combinations of new and old cleaning solutions, making note of qualities such as whether the solutions were efficient cleaners, changed the texture of the painted surface or mistakenly removed paint.

The cleaning systems detailed at the CAPS workshop, however, now provide conservators with solutions and emulsions that are more easily customized to the paintings being worked on. The result of these advances means safer conservation practices and more brilliant outcomes.

Previously: Seeing Color/Printing Color: A Review
Next issue: Coming Apart at the Seams: A Polychrome Crucifix Project

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 Tue, Feb 24, 2015