Name: Mohamed Abdeldayem Ahmed Soltan
Title of research project / research interests: An Investigation into the History of the Airbrush and the Impact of the Conservation Treatment of Airbrushed Canvas Paintings
Type of research e.g. PhD or Postdoc: PhD
Affiliation(s): Northumbria University
Supervisor(s): Miss Jean Brown, Dr Brian Singer
(Estimated) date of completion: PhD degree awarded on 25 February 2016
Previous education and/or work experience:
- MA Fine Art (2006, Alexandria University, Egypt)
- MA Conservation of Fine Art (2010, Northumbria University, UK)
The research considers whether traditional approaches to easel paintings conservation are appropriate for the treatment of air brush paintings.
The objectives were:
- To investigate the aesthetic and technical history of the airbrush
- To investigate surface changes in paint layers
- To investigate the appropriateness of traditional conservation treatments for airbrush paintings and evaluate alternative approaches
Although the first airbrush was introduced in 1883 it was initially rejected by many fine art circles as being too ‘mechanical’. Airbrush techniques have been little discussed in the field of fine art and the field of the conservation of fine art.
A mixed methodology was followed for this research, qualitative through literature review carried out in line with the interdisciplinary nature of the research, and quantitative through various approaches including surveys. One survey was carried out in order to establish the use of air brush techniques by artists and its eventual acceptance as a fine art technique. A second survey was conducted to discover how well conservators understood the degradation characteristics of air brush paintings and their appropriate treatment. The research revealed that much of the eventual success of air brush painting resulted from the introduction of new types of paint in order to better manage the technique. It also revealed that there was a high level of uncertainty amongst practitioners in the field of paintings conservation with regard to the deterioration characteristics of air brush painting or their appropriate resolution. However the major concern with regard to conservation lay clearly within the field of image re-integration as a result of its characteristically smooth surface finish.
Artificial light ageing was carried out on simulated mock ups in order to develop a clearer understanding of the type of surface changes that might be expected over time from a limited palette of colours. This was followed by technical visual examination and media analysis via FTIR and Py-GC-MS methods. It was found that there were changes in surface morphology in some colours, which appeared to further enhance the smooth surface finish of the paint layer.
A range of approaches to image re-integration were trialled ranging from the traditional paint based approaches to the use of digital coloured light. The latter was of particular interest in offering a truly reversible none interventive approach to re-integration. The focus of the digital re-integration techniques was to evaluate the viability of its use in general practice. Due to the smooth surface as well as the build-up of multiple layers of colour the traditional approaches proved difficult to harmonise within the picture plain. The use of digital approaches using coloured light was more successful although further research is required in order to develop this approach for wide spread professional practice.
The physical and chemical characteristics of the airbrushed paint layer present issues that are fundamentally different to those found in oil paintings. As yet these are not all fully understood and require further research. Until such time the use of none interventive, reversible image re-integration techniques such as coloured light would be recommended.
Airbrush, Spray, Paintings, Conservation, Restoration, Non-interventive Image Reintegration,
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