Technique and condition

The painting was executed on a single piece of rather coarse linen fabric that is stretched extremely tightly around an eight-membered rigid strainer and attached with stainless steel staples along the rear edges. For display the painting is placed on two lumps of elephant dung (which have been sealed in polyester resin) and is allowed to lean back against the wall. The linen fabric was purchased pre-primed (with an acrylic-based emulsion gesso), but the artist applied further acrylic gesso primer to the stretched face and tacking edges. Despite the many layers of ground, the overall thickness is still sufficiently thin for the canvas weave texture to remain apparent through it.

The first layer of paint was a very light yellow-green imprimatura (this is a phosphorescent paint that glows in the dark). The image was then applied using a variety of different materials. The actual paint used was a combination of oil (painted dots and dark brown outlines) and acrylic emulsion (black hearts). Other materials used were polyester resin, collage, glitter stars and spots, map pins and (sealed and dried) elephant's dung. The order of application was as follows: First the pencil lines were applied, followed by the collaged elements which were adhered to the surface. Then the black hearts were painted in acrylic. The phosphorescent paint was then used to write the words 'RIP Stephen Lawrence 19/4/1997' in four lines across the surface. This is particularly visible in UV illumination or if viewed in the dark after it has been lit or irradiated with UV. The map pins were inserted into the pieces of elephant's dung which were then stuck to the canvas with a hot glue gun. Then the surface of the painting was flooded with the polyester resin, which bonded the pieces of dung in place. The glitter pieces were sprinkled into the resin before it dried. This part must have been carried out with the painting horizontal, using a tipping technique to produce the runs of resin towards all four edges. Once the resin had dried, the dark brown outline was painted and finally the coloured dots applied. These could have been applied using a dried brush or small stick to position the dots carefully and control the amount of paint. The oil paint would have probably been thinned slightly to improve its flow properties.

The painting is currently in good condition. However, its behaviour in the long term is hard to predict with so many different materials being used. It will therefore be closely monitored at fairly frequent intervals and the amount of travel should be minimised. The weakest part of the structure is the dung pieces on the actual work, which will probably fall off at some point. It is also not known how well the pieces of dung are sealed in the polyester resin and for how long this will prolong their natural deterioration. The artist has left instructions should they ever need replacing. They do not need to be exact copies, but should be remade from dried elephant dung from London Zoo.

Tom Learner
July 2000