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Tru Vue Blog: Highlights from #Icon19

Jenny Williamson ACR, is a freelance Paintings Conservator based in Aberystwyth. Jenny was able to join #Icon19 in Belfast thanks to the generous support of Tru Vue. 


I thoroughly enjoyed #Icon19 in Belfast. All aspects of the conference: the content, the venue, the city and the extras were excellent. The atmosphere was of new perspectives and conservators facing up to modern challenges in a fearless way.

I joined a conference tour, On the first day, for a visit to the National Trust property, Mount Stewart. Staff and conservators presented the work involved in the recent £8 million restoration. Highlights included a discussion of the decision-making to replace, rather than restore some of the fabrics and carpets.

There were many fascinating papers and of particular interest to me were ones relating to my work as a paintings conservator:

  • “Approaches to cleaning modern and contemporary art: collaborations, methodologies and novel materials” the plenary from Bronwyn Ormsby, summarised recent research on new methods for cleaning sensitive painted surfaces. It has resulted in the successful development of surfactants, water-in-oil microemulsions and nanotechnology-based gels. She described the successful use of the Nanorestore Gel Peggy 5 on the 1963 Roy Lichtenstein painting “Wham” .
  • “The atypical restoration of a painting wounded by war” by Carole Clairon-Labarthe discussed decision making for large retouchings.
  • “Conservation of Russian Abstract Art of the second part of the twentieth century” by Anastasia Yurovetskaya highlighted the difficulties and processes necessary to reach and choose conservation solutions.
  • “Blue light laser scanning for documenting surface alteration in mediaeval sculpture”,  by Christopher Weeks introduced a new technique which I hope might be applicable to document the surface of impastoed and cracked paintings to monitor changes.

Other papers and events were relevant to broader aspects of my work:

  • the keynote from Dr Eleanor Schofield presented an overview of the Mary Rose conservation project which illustrated and highlighted the skills and thinking required to manage the project.
  • two plenary talks from emerging conservators, Arianne Panton and Rebecca Plumbe, and mid-career professional, Leanne Tonkin highlighted the challenges facing conservators today and the challenges for conservation to be inclusive.
  • the plenary from Meredith Wiggins described how Historic England is working with colleagues all over the world to share best practice, support inevitable loss, and promote the role heritage can play in a sustainable future, and use historic buildings to address worldwide carbon targets;
  • the Leadership skills for Conservators session challenged my ideas of what a leadership course is and has encouraged me to think of applying to do the Leadership Launchpad course later this year.  

Amongst it all, there were plenty of opportunities to catch up with old friends, meet new ones and discuss conservation now.



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