Technique and condition

The painting was executed on a single piece of medium-weight, commercially primed linen canvas that is stretched around its original softwood expandable stretcher and attached with wire staples at the rear. The commercial white priming has been analysed as an acrylic emulsion gesso material and exists as a reasonably thin and even layer, through which the canvas texture remains very evident. The back of the linen was sealed by the artist with an unpigmented acrylic emulsion 'size'.

The image is created with acrylic emulsion paint, and cotton and wool threads, although the precise order of execution of paint / thread application is not entirely clear. However, an overall 'imprimatura' layer of grey acrylic emulsion paint was probably first applied over the entire canvas. This is a thin yellowish grey colour and was probably watered down slightly before application. Further paint layers were then applied, interspersed with the positioning and fixing of some of the cotton and wool threads. For example, paint covers the threads that were used in the outlines and contours of the house and path etc., whereas it does not for the cotton threads used for the brickwork, which were threaded through from the front of canvas. The acrylic paint appears poured on in places, especially the thicker acrylic part in the lower two thirds of the painting. The paint here appears to have been mixed on the canvas, probably with a brush or stick and extreme drying cracks are visible that add an interesting texture. Most of the wool threads in this area stand perpendicular to the canvas plane and are stiff with the impregnation of additional paint. However, some threads are not covered in paint and appear quite floppy. The strips of wood veneer (used for the garage door) are glued onto the painting and were probably one of the last features to be added (the lower right strip was cut to fit around the woollen 'bush', which in turn was applied after the paint in that area had dried). The painting is not varnished.

The painting is currently in excellent condition. Providing the appropriate level of care is taken when handling or displaying the work (the threads in particular are very vulnerable to being snagged etc), the painting should remain in good condition. This includes the use of a barrier when on display. The main concern with this work is that the light resistance of the threads is not known. Fading tests are currently being carried out in the scientific section of Tate's conservation department, but an overall lowering of light levels would be beneficial.

Tom Learner
June 2000