Technique and condition

The support is a single piece of 3.5mm thick 3 ply plywood board. This with a prominent grain running horizontally on the face and reverse is attached to a backing board consisting of a single piece of 3mm hardboard faced with canvas.

The lean, white priming has been brushed over the whole of the front of the plywood and runs slightly over the edges of the panel. Analysis indicates that the priming consists of a poly-vinyl acetate based standard household emulsion. It is fairly stiff in consistency with a texture of mainly horizontal brush marks. The texture of the plywood board is also apparent in some areas. The priming is left visible over much of the painting and forms an important part of the image.

The drawn and painted abstract shapes were applied thinly on top of the priming using a variety of techniques. First the position of most of the forms was established; sometimes with brief dashes of the pencil to mark an approximate position, but in other places with more complete outlines lightly drawn in pencil. Spray paint was then used to apply colour. Hard-edged blobs of mid blues and a transparent bright green (fluorescent in Ultra Violet light) appear to have been created by masking with stencils of some sort. Dark blue spray paint was used without masking to produce the larger, more diffuse shapes. In contrast the pale blue and brown paint (possibly oil paint) of the blobs on the left seem to have been applied with a brush. The thin meandering lines were then re-drawn in charcoal/soft graphite over the initial light drawing and black paint was brushed on to form the thick lines and small black blobs. The two hard-edged lines in the centre were produced using masking tape at both sides, which has left distinctive raised lines and little runs at the edges of the black paint. There are scattered speckles of bright green spray paint on top of the other colours and the white priming. These are so extensive that it seems they were applied intentionally, over most of the painting although they are hardly visible from viewing distance. There are also traces of the dark blue spray paint on the raised brush marks of the priming over much of the painting, particularly on the areas closest to the blue sprayed shapes.

There are several alterations by the artist. For example the horizontal element of the lower black masked line has been reduced in thickness by painting over it in white paint. Some areas show signs rubbing out, for example, a brown blob near the green blobs on the right has been sanded down and then painted out in white priming. There is a similar alteration at the edge of the mid-blue blob at the bottom. The different types of paint vary greatly in gloss and transparency and there is no varnish.

The painting is in good condition but is fragile and likely to be very sensitive to changes in humidity. The plywood support is very thin for its size and the canvas faced backing board is not stiff enough to support the painting. There are undulations between the points of attachment with the board and one large check in the face veneer of the plywood has developed, causing cracking in the priming/paint. More checks are likely to form in the future. The paint/priming are in good condition. There are numerous, but minor scuffs, scratches and abrasion, particularly at the edges and corners of the plywood board where there are some small losses. Many of these as well as the finger marks at edges of the painting may have occurred during the painting process or before the attachment of the painting to the backing board. There are pentimenti visible which will probably become more obvious as the paint changes differentially in the future.

The painting, mounted onto its canvas covered mounting board is framed by a simple box section shadow box of grey painted hardwood. The frame is glazed with perspex and has a canvas covered inner slip (spacer between glazing and mount) which matches the mounting board. The framing was carried out by Stewart Heslop Frames soon after the creation of the work, to the instructions of the artist. The frame is visually acceptable and in good condition, but it is too flimsy to give adequate support to the painting. Both the painting's hardboard backing and the acrylic glazing are very thin and flexible for the size of the work and their flexibility has allowed contact between the paint and the perspex, resulting in several small abrasion damages to the surface of the paint.

Sam Hodge
January 1999