AAS Annual Meeting

Southeast Asia Session 490

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Session 490: Twentieth Century Southeast Asian Works of Art: Material Choices and Behaviour

Organizer: Nicole A. Tse, University of Melbourne, Australia

Chair: Ana Maria Theresa P. Labrador, National Museum of the Philippines , Philippines

Materials choices offered to twentieth century artists’ radically modified art practices. As new technological developments emerged in US and Europe and then in wider parts of the world, the introduction of synthetic media, new pigments and dyes, and additives radically changed paint handling and performance. Culminating in relatively recent works of art, they are important in terms of national identity and memory, yet research on their preservation has not been a major focus in the diverse tropical climates of Southeast Asia. Today collectors, curators and conservators are confronted with material-based preservation questions, but lack the sustained and integrated database to inform decision-making. Informed by art historical research, curatorial practice and conservation and scientific inquiry, the papers in this panel will examine the materiality of twentieth century works of art. Through the work of the APTCCARN (Asia Pacific Twentieth Century Conservation Art Network), members will investigate the uptake of new twentieth century art and industrial materials in artistic practice and the mechanisms that deemed them desirable or appropriate by artists. Merchandising, information exchanges and the influence of teachers on artistic practice that led to the dissemination of new knowledge about materials will be explored. The materiality of twentieth century works of art and the interdisciplinary approach, demand consideration both for future academic study and the preservation of Southeast Asian twentieth century works of art. The panel will include summary paper presentations as full papers will be disseminated prior to the panel to ensure active discussion by the audience and panel.

Materials & Techniques of Twentieth Century oil paintings in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand: an overview
Nicole A. Tse, University of Melbourne, Australia

From when oil painting practice was introduced to Southeast Asia, artists were confronted with unique choices in the production of their works of art. Set in the context of local traditions and resources, religious conversions, colonial governments, modernisation, merchandising and the influence of teachers on artistic practice, the material choices made by Southeast Asian oil painters were made in view of European derived practices assimilated to Asian locations. Today oil painting practice in Southeast Asia has become a mainstream artistic pursuit and vast collections exist. Yet the existence of these paintings which comprise of materials and techniques derived from art making practices developed in Europe, but which were produced and housed in tropical climates, presents art historians and conservators working in the region with many preservation issues and theoretical questions. Little information exists on their materiality of oil paintings in Southeast Asia. This is problematic given the vulnerability and major role the support and ground layers play on the behaviour and condition of oil paintings. This is further coupled with the environmental conditions of high temperatures and relative humidities in tropical Southeast Asia, which causes other unknown deterioration mechanisms. As a result there is a need to know more about the materials and techniques used of Southeast Asian oil painting supports for informed conservation decisions to be developed and to contribute to art historical discussions.

Establishing Cost-Effective Measures To Ensure the Authenticity of Works Of Art Declared As Important Cultural Property In A Third World Setting
Larry Cruz, Independent Scholar, Philippines

The University of the Philippines Office of Vice Chancellor for Research and Development has funded a research grant to work on establishing methods that will support visual examination with a more scientific means of detecting properties of a painting that can aid in its authentication. A composite team from the Jorge Vargas Museum and Filipinia Research Center, the National Institute of Physics, National Historical Commission, and the UP Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering conducted an in-depth study of the works of an early 20th century painter and the first Philippine National Artist, Fernando Cueto Amorsolo. This paper aims to present an investigation conducted on Amorsolo paintings from a university museum collection using a low-cost digital archiving setup that can derive both 3D texture and spectral reflectance measurements and a visual examination to identify common characteristics and patterns, both non-invasive in nature. It demonstrated how statistical and image analysis can provide qualitative and quantitative measures in art examination to help prevent the proliferation of forgeries on paintings on canvas and boards. It also aims to present a comparative viewpoint from the usual laboratory practices done in Philippine government cultural agency on investigating material objects to determine their authenticity. It offers conservation professionals and artists in the Third World technique which is non-destructive and in the end, more cost-efficient. This paper also discusses the implications of the study in securing the authenticity of masterpiece paintings.

Oil Paint Manufacture and Collaboration with practicing Thai artists
Supanee Chayabutra, Independent Scholar, Thailand

Understanding the production and stability of twentieth century paints in tropical climates is critical for the preservation of twentieth century art produced and located in tropical environments. This paper traces the research, manufacture, use and ageing mechanisms of the Silpakorn Pradit and Wichitrong range of acrylic and oil paints produced by Silpakorn University in Thailand. The research and development of the range of high quality artist’s paints commenced in 2001 with the aim to produce paints that are affordable, safe and non-polluting. Another objective was to manuafacture art materials suited to the tropical climates of Thailand and to test their handling properties with sixty of the country’s leading artists to improve their quality. After ten years production, this paper will explore the uptake and condition of works of art that have used the Silpkaorn University range of art artist’s paints.

A synthesis of dialogues, analysis and interpretation: Technical art history studies at the Heritage Conservation Centre, Singapore
Selina Halim, Independent Scholar, Indonesia

The Heritage Conservation Centre (HCC) is an institution which provides conservation support to the museums under the National Heritage Board (NHB), Singapore. The Centre’s Conservation Department has developed a close working relationship between conservators, curators and artists that has led to a productive dialogue and study of the artworks in the collection. A series of fruitful collaborations have recently synthesized projects in the area of technical and art historical research between HCC paintings conservators and the curators from the National Art Gallery of Singapore. This included research into several key Singaporean artists in the museum collection, such as Anthony Poon (1945-2006), Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983), Liu Kang (1911-2004) and Yeh Chi Wei (1913-1981), in conjunction with exhibitions preparation. Artist materials and technique studies, combined with oral interviews with the late artists' family members and materials suppliers have provided significant insight into the artists' way of working and choice of materials. These technical art history research projects have not only provided better knowledge of the Singaporean artists in the collection and their use of materials, but also contributed to Singapore's art history framework. The cultivated oral information combined with the conservator's intimate analysis of each artwork serves as a window into the past on the way art-production in Singapore has developed over the years with relation to materials availability. It also revealed Singapore artists' stylistic progression with regards to the eastern and western art influence.

Artists Interviews: Documenting Unconventional Materials
Mat Isa Musrizal, Independent Scholar, Malaysia

The range of materials available to contemporary artists is ever expanding. As contemporary artists experiment and diversify the uptake of materials in their works of art, important art conservation questions are raised for museum professionals. Established protocols do not accommodate for the complex questions relating to the care and conservation of art works constructed from unconventional materials or the artists intent. This paper investigates the value of artist’s interviews and the documentation of unconventional materials to inform collections management practices at Balai Seni Lukis Negara. With new acquisitions every year, it is imperative that the artists voice is captured to ensure their long term preservation within a culturally sensitive framework

Wall Slogan of the Cultural Revolution on Building in Fushan: The Studies of Technique, Material and Deterioration
Roy Sit Kai Sin, Independent Scholar, Macau

For centuries, Foshan is a town for traditional folk arts of Southern China. During the Cultural Revolution, most of the traditions were prohibited. At the same time, wall slogans of political propaganda were all over China. However, most of these slogans have gone since the economic growth. Nowadays, Chinese people look at the slogans from different point of view which represent the special period in Chinese history. Some even consider it is a kind of art form or symbol. Some of these significant slogans are being preserved for a better understand of the past. That is why the studies of the technique, material and deterioration of those pieces are necessary.