1739 Fabrics for 21st Century Art and Sculpture

Friday, February 19, 2010: 9:10 AM
Room 11B (San Diego Convention Center)
Christina Young , Courtauld Institute of Art, London, United Kingdom
From paintings of the past, present and future, to architectural enclosures – understanding fabrics in tension is the key to their conservation and design. The fabrics investigated in this research are for use in the conservation of easel paintings, as artists' canvas, and as a material for sculpturing architectural enclosures. These applications require an in-depth understanding of their stress/strain response under different tensioning, and environmental conditions. Paintings and sculptured fabric enclosures convey a different aesthetic. However, their synergy comes from the study of form: explored in paint and three dimensional space, and literally in their fundamental construction. This paper focuses on the design specification and assessment of fabrics for artist canvas and for the structural reinforcement of paintings on canvas, taking into account the physical, aesthetic and kinaesthetic properties. The final specification was based on discussions with fabric suppliers/manufacturers, questionnaires, a workshop with conservators, our experience of treating paintings and testing materials. The mechanical properties, moisture response, crimp, drape and gloss were measured for sixteen fabrics. In tandem with the mechanical testing a computational model using spline curve fitting was developed by Warwick University to replicate a stretched canvas. This model incorporated the attachments, corner joint, frictional forces, and uniquely, the folding of the canvas around the stretcher. The model was validated by mapping the strain distribution of real samples using a 3D Electronic Speckle Pattern Interferometer (ESPI) and a biaxial tensile tester. The project evaluated traditional and synthetic fabrics including; cotton, linen, polyester, polyamide, carbon fibre and Kevlar all which have some desirable properties. The research has shown that even when the raw fibre has suitable properties the finished woven fabric may not. This is because of the strong influence of the yarns properties and woven geometry on the final behaviour. Polyester (PEK form) still exhibits the best combination of properties and provides the most promising starting point to improve the performance of artists’ canvas and as a “lining” fabric even though it has yet to match linen or cotton kinaesthetically or aesthetically. The Courtauld, as a result of this research, has been able to recommend suitable fabrics for use in different scenarios, for both conservators and artists. The potential of more stable canvases allows for even greater artistic freedom and longevity of works of art.