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.
The 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. The 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!
We 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.