Technique and condition

The painting was executed on a single piece of medium-weight, slightly open weave, 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 covering 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 and oil 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 pinkish grey colour and was probably watered down slightly before application. Further paint layers were then applied, interspersed with the positioning of some of the cotton threads. For example, the outline of the spot shape consists of threads that have been painted over with (and held in place by) the grey acrylic paint. Once the overall paint application had been completed, the two 'organic' grey / white forms along bottom and right edges were created with much thicker acrylic paint, which appears to have been poured onto the canvas with the painting in a horizontal position. The paint in these areas is very smooth and exhibits wet-in-wet blending and a few areas of bubbles. The 'spot' shape was then created with cotton thread in a range of blue hues and was presumably threaded through the canvas with a needle. The flowers in the foreground were probably the last feature to be added. The petals consist of oil paint that was squeezed directly from their tubes at the back of the canvas, through holes that were punctured in it. The paint has dried in twists and curls on the front. The green stems of wool were probably added last, once the oil paint had (at least partially) 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