Technique and condition

This very large floor based abstract sculpture covers an area of almost five square metres. It is assembled from five individual sections formed from mild steel sheet, variously cut, curved and welded to form large bold shapes. Two are painted yellow, two magenta and the remaining section, which is made from two distinct shapes welded together, is part yellow, part magenta. The sections bolt together for display and form a closed composition.

The steel surfaces were very carefully prepared by the artist by shot-blasting to achieve a clean surface ready for priming. The undercoat and top paint layers were then applied by brush. The yellow was a cellulose enamel paint, matt appearance, with a polyurethane varnish coating. The magenta was Rowney’s Acrylic Paint, gloss appearance, with no varnish applied.

In 1999 this work had not been displayed for more than twenty years due to the poor condition of the paint surfaces. Dirt, scuffs and small areas of damage were present and especially noticeable on the large areas of pure colour. The work was therefore re-painted by Tate Sculpture Conservation in consultation with the artist and after analysis of the original paint had been carried out. Prior to repainting, the surfaces were sanded down and therefore the original priming layers remain. Where any metal was exposed, it was sealed with an acrylic resin. The new paint was colour matched to the original and is a modern high quality artist’s acrylic. It should age well and be less susceptible to dirt pickup.

The piece is in good condition. The weld joins are strong and there is no distortion to any of the pieces. However, over the years many of the original fixings have been damaged during repeated installation and have had to be replaced due to the amount of strain they are under while the work is installed.

Melanie Rolfe / Bryony Bery
September 2002 / May 2004