Archive: January 21, 2016

Exhausting but rewarding day

C. slept later than usual and I had more time to plan my day and make various lists as we women like to do. So when I brushed my teeth I inadvertently risned my mouth using tap water which I spat out. I immediately asked C. for help, and so he arrived with a miniature bottle of vodka and told me to gargle. If you have never tried it, don’t bother – it burns every inch of your mouth!

We started not knowing what the day would bring; how true – as usual the guard dogs  had a howling competition with the neighbouring dogs at around 2 am, and I almost miss the aeroplane noise in Richmond (which is what we are used to). Anyway after a mean porridge cooked by Filou,  and with C’s new gadget (we seem to find one every day) the toaster  with proper whole meal bread, I walked up the hill to the Arch. House while C. went by scooter.

IMG_3230The students treacle trickle in at around 9.30 – 10.30. We had notes on colour composition (watercolour versus gouache, oil, tempera) and then allocated a painting to each student, who will take responsibility for it from now on. This will include writing an estimate, a brief art history background, a condition report and a proposal. It is very difficult to make sure that everybody is happy with the choice but I try very hard to look out for each one, and at the end of the day the work is shared by all – a true old fashioned workshop (what we call in Italian a ‘bottega’).

Most paintings have a severe problem with the tension of the canvas – so much humidity during the monsoon season has affected them badly.  Anna is incredible, she take them off the stretchers and just shrinks them without batting an eyelid. No other student would approach them with such a positive attitude (good on her).  Joanna, who is only in her second term in London, is already deep in the cleaning process, with better result on the second painting because it had not had previous restoration. She has become so poised and independent I need to remind myself that this really is only her second term.

All the day the students went between the polychrome statues , consolidating and filling them, and then back on the paintings fine-tuning the cleaning and observing new materials or new techniques.

As if we did not have enough, Caetano who has 20 years of experience as a marine engineer has volunteered to remove the 3 layer ply wood which has been glued and nailed to the back of one of the canvases by someone trying to help many many years ago. DSC_2963The plywood is in two sections with additions of odd wood nailed back to front – a real mess. So Caetano and Joseph, who was on a tight schedule as his plane leaves around 4.50, start delaminating the ply wood. Incredibly they reached the last very thin sheet of wood without too much effort. Joseph almost missed his plane as he could not detach himself from the project. The glue was firmly stuck where there is a hole or tear, and Caetano showed me how to slide the chisel upside down on a palette knife under to avoid damaging the canvas – so much better than softening with water. You learn every day!

Gomantak Times 160120We had a second article in another newspaper – The Gomantak Times – where they had simply sent an email with a list of questions which we answered. I guess it’s the modern way of journalism, as it seems almost too easy…

They even asked us to send the photograph and there was much debate amongst the students as to which shot to use – Caterina was being photographed in the middle of teaching.

The Archbishop’s birthday

IMG_3195To day is an  important day because we have been invited (Joanna, Anna, Christopher and I) to the Archbishops’ birthday party. Three Archbishops; the Archbishop Emeritus Raul Gonçalves, a visiting Canadian, Richard Smith Archbishop of Emonton and His Grace The Patriarch of the East Indies Filipe Neri were all present for the celebration of His Grace’s birthday. Many songs, much local food, a huge snapper poached and covered with a tomato curry sauce and other small bite size prawns, beef croquette and chicken in what seemed honey glazed as appetizers. A true curry feast followed. The Archbishop had invited all those who work with him and who look after him and we were invited as well. We were described as the only white people at the party and had to stand up so all the participant could see us. We even tried to sing Happy Birthday in Konkani with very little success.

We all felt very much part of the extended family. The tradition is to work only half day on such occasion but we went back to work as our students were waiting and we had much work to do.Class plus archbishop

The team is really becoming united as they all help each other and also I can really see how much the work has progressed in 4 working days:

We started surface cleaning by two groups of students the Number 1 and 3 Archbishops on Friday, and that initial task was completed on Monday morning. We then proceeded to remove the oxidized mastic varnish (we know what it is by the solvent it responds to and by the colour of the dirty swab). That treatment was more or less completed on Tuesday. Yesterday the students also surface cleaned 5 polychrome statues, the treatment was completed this morning and the consolidation followed using natural glues.

After the birthday party we made some gesso and we started to fill the losses on the statues. We also found some local wood called shuan and covered small pieces with 8 coats of gesso.

Anna has finished the cleaning treatment of Archbishop 5 which has been removed from the original stretcher and flattened, while she is waiting for the canvas to stabilize she has started the cleaning of another painting.

Joanna has cleaned Archbishop 4 and consolidated the flaking paint and has started on Archbishop 6. I will give them their right title instead of numbers by tomorrow.

We have so far achieved a huge amount of work in a short space of time. Can we keep up this pace? Time will tell.

Our main problem today was to find some putty similar to ours in UK (incredibly the students understand immediately what I am talking about and produce something similar within hours) and wood glue. The shops are very small (size 6 X 9 feet) and the street are narrow, and thanks to Christopher who seems to have an uncanny sense of direction we manage to find the right shops. Although it has to be said that more than once we have taken a one way street in the wrong direction not on a scooter but in a car – not very advisable!

Now in bed the dogs have started, the geckos are coming out …

Polychrome statues and an island supper

IMG_3109Christopher has rented a motorbike and is going round Panjim  buying what we need or something similar. He came back at 1.15 for lunch with no iron or any  other materials on the list. He explained over lunch that his main worry was some plumbing in our current bathroom and he had spent the morning talking to a plumber. We were not on the same page and we decided to improve our communication.  Mind you he had managed to buy a hot ring yesterday in the market, as well as a syringe and other bits and pieces. Yesterday he was our hero.

Today Joseph (one of the students ) has been a great help, as a pharmaceutical specialist he is providing us with lots of items, such as the most magnificent cotton wool we have ever had. I will take some to London. Sandesh has bought two very nice brittle brushes which do not shed like ours. Eva has shown us the best cocktail bar in town (according to Joanna). Milene has brought glass jars which we needed desperately. Wynzel provided disinfectant soap. Caetano has photocopied all the notes we did over the last two days. Amazing team work. Remember there was no studio a week ago.

IMG_3117The work today focused on statues which I managed to purchase yesterday. These polychrome statues are all at least 100 years old made of local wood. They are in bad need of restoration, some with gold whilst others are plainer, but all interesting to work on. I decided to give the students these statues to work on because the dirt was more visible than on the portraits which are very dark. I also believe from experience that the students are more focused if they have more than one project on the go. They said that it was great to sit down today around a table all together, and they seemed to bond.

IMG_3131Anna (third year student) had invited us with Joanna to her divine family run pension on Divar Island. We all climbed in Anna’s borrowed car and went to the island by ferry. Health and Safety would not have approved the ferry not drawing up the ramp either way (it looked very rusty). The pension is delightful and the food locally sourced and delicious. We had to rush back to the convent before the guard dogs (Alsatians) were let loose, which happens every night at around 21.30.

Monday – first full day of class

DSC_2846 After the week-end to make sure that they really want to learn about conservation and restoration, the students have their first full day of class.

They start with an hour or so of theory and notes, so that they get a good understanding of some of the basics and begin to get a good grounding in what it means to be a conservator and the core principles.

IMG_3119The next stage is to make a start on some of the paintings, and as you can see they have got stuck in to doing some simple surface cleaning. In the meantime our two students from the UK have taken on one painting each and are making good progress. Anna has taken the painting out of the frame and off the stretcher, and is starting to flatten and consolidate the canvas. Joanna is making good progress cleaning one of the more difficult paintings, and they are both sharing knowledge and experience with the local students.

The studio is working well – it is a light and airy room with good lighting and good ventilation, and we have plenty of tables and coffee and tea for the breaks! The students are gelling as a group and it’s great to see them getting on together.

It is quite a difficult situation because the materials are difficult to source. We have brought most of the materials with us except the solvents and basic equipment such as a ring to warm up Rabbit Skin Glue, gesso and other necessary components, an iron and many more items which were too heavy or we thought we could purchase on location.

 

The project hits the headlines

DSC01422An excellent article by a local journalist Christine Machado covered the project and what we are doing here in Goa.

 

This was the front page of the Leisure section of the Sunday edition of The Goan, one of the main newspapers here in Goa.

 

For the full article online see here – http://englishnews.thegoan.net/story.php?id=9514

Sunday was a day to explore a little, and we are delighted that the second student helping with the project  arrived safely from the UK. Work begins in earnest on Monday morning to start with the paintings.

 

First Day of Class!

What a day it has been today.

First thing this morning on arrival at the Archbishop’s House we started the day by bringing down seven of the portraits from the wall. We chose the seven which normally sit above the throne, so that we are not taking from here and there leaving random blanks. It has to be said that there were some nervous moments as the workmen up the ladders unscrewed the frames from the wall and passed the paintings down, but with care and good instructions all was well. Father Agnello and Father Loiola were marvellous and calm, and maintained a good discipline to make sure that no damage was done.

The first student appeared in the throne room whilst the paintings were coming down, but by 10 o’clock there were only two in the hall which had been set up as the conservation workshop and studio.  We were worried that this was all that we were gong to get, but forgetting that we were in India and so on Goan time! By 10:30 we had nine students, so more than our target of eight for the class.

After an initial introduction to the workshop and a background on the very general history of panel paintings and paintings on canvas. After a good hour, I noticed that everybody was still awake so I continued but Father in a clear voice suggested that it was time to stop for a break. Father Loiola had kindly and generously prepared coffee and tea with biscuits and salted banana chips. Then on to the first practical hands on experience of watching Caterina starting to clean the frames, and learning some basics.

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First group photo. Everyone looks happy.

What is fascinating for me is that i am learning about Indian materials such as type of  wood used for frames, statues.., a fruit that is used for cleaning (someone will bring it next week). One student who lives is Mumbai and commutes is reading up the solvents we use and will try and find something similar as he deals in pharmaceuticals. Another student is a professional photographer and she will be in charge of taking photos. We have a retired banker who is very organised and was in charge of the cleaning of a portrait (removal of superficial dirt only) that painting had 4 girls around it taking turns in the treatment. Not to mention our in house artist who is very knowledgeable on old masters and our marine engineer who has traveled extensively visiting galleries all over the world and is extremely observant and very much in tune with the changes of the painting surface as it was undergoing its first clean.We have so many different talents between all and each one is bringing expertise of some sort. The initial enthusiasm is great.

Towards the end of the day Joanna arrived from the London School bringing materials and dived into the cleaning having traveled since the previous day.

Back to our convent, … to be continued, by the way just to let you know that there is annnnnnnnnnotttttther festival tonight, thank you BA for the ear plugs.

Arrival in Goa – Day One

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We actually arrived yesterday in Goa, but the whole day   had been spent travelling so it was late by the time we arrived in Panjim. Time to meet the nuns (Les Filles du Coeur de Marie) who are hosting us, try and find some phone cards to communicate back to the UK, supper and then bed. As usual there is a festival of some sort going on in town and the noise is …. During the night the guard dogs seemed very busy chasing something. This morning after 3 hours spent unpacking between 2-5 am checking all our materials were intact, we overslept (only until 8am).

We found out that there are over fifteen potential students who want to do the course but there are places only for eight. This morning we went to the Archbishop’s House to discuss plans for the project with Father Loiola, the Archbishop’s Secretary. We agreed to meet on Friday with all the candidates so that Caterina can explain the course to them, and she can then interview each one and decide on who will attend.

After much excitement and anticipation we went upstairs to the throne room to see the 33 portraits of the Archbishops . They are in a worse state than Caterina remembered. Many have been retouched before, and it shows! Others you can see where the old canvas has been cut roughly around the figure and then stuck on to a new canvas, with infilling done around the edge in a rather original manner. We agree to start on one wall over the throne, starting with the oldest paintings of the predecessor of the first archbishop in the mid 16th Century. There are three statue in the Archbishop’s Chapel in desperate need of cleaning.

Father Loiola shows us the room where the course will take place – the St Francis Xavier room which is a new annexe at the back of the Archbishop’s House. It is a good size room, not great light but it will make an excellent class room, with a lovely garden when natural light is needed. It will make a difference to be able to use natural light.

A visit to Panjim in the afternoon was a reconnaissance trip to see where we can find the materials needed, and to start to get a feel for the town. Beautiful low colonial buildings from the Portuguese era and also the Rajah’s summer palace from before the Portuguese arrived, so over 500 years old.

On our return a journalist came to interview Caterina, with lots of questions about the project and about restoration, so we look forward to seeing the results. We hope the article will attract possible future restorers.

We have spotted a cake shop, a few local restaurant and a supermarket for essentials. No need to bring shampoo and soap …

We have another festival happening in town tonight … we will have to join in sometime. I am sure there are plenty more to come.

D day

BA Take offWell here it is – departure day! All our bags are packed and we are ready to go, and the plane is waiting. It’s icy cold in London and so it’s good to be heading out, but much more importantly we can’t wait to get started on the project.

There seems to be a good amount of interest locally, and we will find out more when we arrive in Goa tomorrow (actually this afternoon in Goa as they are 6 1/2 hours ahead so it’s already after midnight).

The cases are full of material for restoration – canvas, paints, gesso, brushes and much more besides, and we are hoping to be able to source other material locally in Goa.

Goanet News publicises the project

GoanetWe are delighted that as a result of an email sent today on Goanet News we are receiving enquiries from potential students in Goa about the project. With spaces limited to only 8 students, these are highly sought after.

Here is what Goanet News had to say –

The London School of Picture and Frame Restoration has for almost twenty years been one of the top institutions in the United Kingdom, training conservators to restore paintings on canvas and on wood support as well as restoring frames. The College Principal, Caterina Goodhart, trained in Florence (Italy) before moving to the UK, has more than thirty years’ experience.

On a trip to Goa in early 2015 she was so moved by the artworks in the churches that she decided to return and to share her knowledge and experience, in order that a new generation of conservators can grow and develop in Goa. And she proposed to begin her work with the Portrait Gallery of the Archbishops of Goa, which is in need of restoration, as some of the portraits date back to the 16th century.

Supported by the Archbishop of Goa and by the Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa, this project will initially run for five weeks, at Archbishop’s House, Altinho, Panjim, beginning on the 15th of January, 2016.

During this time, would-be conservators will receive an introduction to conservation equivalent to a first year diploma, learn the basic principles of cleaning, patching, relining, colour matching and varnishing, and do practical work on actual paintings and frames, with close tuition. The course is aimed chiefly at men or women of all ages who are interested in the possibility of starting a new career in the field and thus ensure a legacy in conservation skills in Goa.

Spaces are limited to not more than 8 students. No  prior skills are required and there are no teaching fees. However, if the students, at the end of the course, are found to be eligible for a City & Guilds of London Institute qualification and certificate, fees will apply. Interested individuals may  inquire at dcscmgoa@gmail.com  or call telephone numbers 2433618 or 9822181790. Restorers and conservators in Goa are also welcome to make contact with Ms. Goodhart at dcscmgoa@gmail.com or info@pictureconservation.com

 

Restorers Sans Frontieres – first project in Goa

Countdown to departure is now 2  days – we are busy organising and packing the final materials we need to take with us.

On the 12th January we leave to fly to Goa in order to set up the Restorers sans Frontières project to –

  • Restore some of the portraits of previous archbishops in the throne room of the Archbishop’s House in Altinho, Panjim, Goa
  • Teach picture conservation and gilding to locals in Goa who want to learn these important skills to preserve their heritage.
  • Leave a legacy so that these skills can be passed on to future generations

Restorers sans Frontières will start in Goa but the aim is for this to be a pilot and to move on to other locations in the future. The purpose of the project is to open a school and train local people  in the craft of conservation / restoration of their own heritage. We have been allocated paintings to restore in the Archbishop’s Palace in Goa. We have opened the school to anyone who would like to train with us and hopefully in conjunction with the City & Guilds, who currently examine our students, we can extend the qualifications to the new students in Goa offering them a certificate once they have completed the course.  The course is not aimed at existing conservators, but instead is for willing men or women of all ages who are interested in the possibility of starting a new career in the field. Spaces are limited to no more than 8 students

 This first pilot project will initially run for 4 or 5 weeks during January and February. During this time would-be conservators will receive an introduction to conservation equivalent to a first year diploma, learn the basic principles of cleaning, patching, relining, colour matching and varnishing, and do practical work on actual paintings and frames, with close tuition.

We are very excited that a number of current and past students have also volunteered to join us in Goa to help with this pilot project, and look forward to welcoming them to India in the coming weeks. At the last count there are 7(!) who plan to join us for what will be a fascinating experience.

The first Archbishop of Goa was Gaspar Jorge de Leão Pereira appointed in 1558. Archbishop Gaspar was born in Lagos, Portugal and died in Goa in 1576. There have been 33 archbishops since that time, up to the current one who is the Most Rev. Filipe Neri Ferrão, Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Titular Archbishop of Cranganore, Primate of the East, Patriarch of the East Indies.