Now that the first leg of teaching is at an end, and after a few days off to go and visit Hampi, I have had some time to think back and reflect on what we have achieved.
Throughout the world since the beginning of visual art, there has been restoration of paintings, or sadly more often repainting of paintings. The 1966 flood in Florence saw many priceless artworks retrieved from the floodwaters in appalling conditions due to water, mud and oil amongst other things. It was a turning point for the ethos of conservation. There was to be no more repainting, but instead minimal treatments which allowed what was original to stand out. I was fortunate to have as my teachers and mentors the main restorers from the flood, who had to learn to salvage these works of art. This has enabled me to conserve and subsequently teach conservation/restoration in London to students coming from all over the world.
On a previous trip to Old Goa I became aware of how much work was needed to preserve the multitude of art pieces. I felt the need to share how best to preserve our global heritage for future generations, and to pass on my thirty five years of knowledge and experience. I approached Father Loiola and very kindly, after speaking to His Grace Felipe Neri, we were invited to set up a programme similar to the one which we have been running in London for the last 20 years.
The task of starting to conserve a collection which is in precarious condition due to extensive repainting is by no means a project on which to embark lightly. With the help of 2 colleagues with extensive experience and 5 current students from around the world, we started teaching our level 2 City and Guilds programme to eight local Goan students.
The work and the written projects by the students in Goa speak for themselves – they will be presented to the City and Guilds in London for assessment. This is a start to conservation where minimal intervention with reversible treatments are used at all times. I am confident that the students are following the ethos of conservation which is to preserve their heritage.
It has been an exhausting trip but worthwhile for the commitment and work done by local young conservators. It has been a full-on programme necessary to understand what conservation is, and our motto is ‘less is more’. We set out before we arrived with three aims – to conserve, to teach and to leave a legacy. I feel that we have achieved this, and set the foundations for future work. The students are by no means fully fledged restorers, but they have a very good understanding of their limitations.
Let us hope that the concept of Restorers without Frontiers can become a reality and that other restorers from around the globe will join in, take part and give their time and expertise to help conservation wherever it may be needed. We need to work together by communicating, sharing and above all commitment.
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