Black & White Editions from Dick Frizzell

Domestic Bliss
7 Minutes
In 2011 Dick Frizzell completed a series of black and white prints celebrating the every day domestic objects that you can find in a typical kiwi home.  These are very similar in style to Frizzell's first experiments with fine art printmaking, at Paul Hartigan's Snake Studio off Queen St in the late 1970s. As Frizzell explains about these early forays into printmaking "I still had a roll of clear acetate from the animation days and used it to make my separations. Black enamel paint brushed directly onto the plastic gave a lot of painterly control." It wasn't until almost two decades later than Dick returned to screenprinting (many of his editions during the 1980s and 1990s were lithographs) working with Don Tee of Artrite studios.  We have in stock good numbers of these editions as due to the disruption following the Christchurch earthquakes we have had these prints stored in drawers waiting to be catalogued for over a year.

How to look after fine art prints - with paper conservator Lynn Campbell

When NZ Fine Prints wanted to know what was best practice in taking care of fine art prints we asked leading NZ fine art conservator Lynn Campbell of Campbell Conservation to imagine giving advice to a brand new collector of original or antique prints who knows nothing about how to care for their collection. If you would like to get in touch with her regarding your paper conservation or art restoration needs please call Lynn at Campbell Conservation here in Christchurch on 03 980 4972.

(This article is the second part of our discussion with Lynn, last month we learned about the job of a paper conservator and the course of study and qualifications required to work in the fascinating field of fine art conservation.)

Conservation of art - General Principles

Lynn says "Try to provide conditions that are as stable as possible. High temperatures and humidity levels speed up the degradation of the paper and encourage mould growth. Fluctuations cause distortions and subsequent damage to paper items."

The optimum storage conditions are 18-22°c and 45-55% relative humidity.

These precise conditions are difficult to achieve without specialist air-conditioning systems but it is possible to apply some basic but important principles that will make a difference.  
  1. Avoid using an attic or basement as a storage area. These areas tend to be prone to dampness or water leaks and conditions can fluctuate greatly. 
  2. Keep away from heaters, fire-places and other sources of heat. Avoid contact with bathroom, kitchen, laundry and external walls, as humidity in these areas fluctuates greatly. 
  3. If possible use a storage location in the centre of a building away from external walls. These areas undergo the least fluctuations in temperature and humidity.
  4. Keep storage areas clean and well ventilated to avoid pest infestations and mould growth. 
  5. Avoid strong light sources and direct sunlight as these will accelerate the degradation and fading processes.

Optimal long term storage for works on paper like prints
Never use sticky tape! 

  1. Lay prints flat in archival (acid-free) boxes. Alternatively, use ordinary boxes lined with acid free paper. Valuable or fragile prints should be individually wrapped.  Store artworks in folders or keep them mounted and framed. Artworks on paper similar to prints with fragile or delicate surfaces such as unfixed charcoal or chalk drawings are best mounted to avoid abrasion and smudging.  For long-term protection, mounts should be made from 100% rag, acid-free, alkaline buffered mount board. This is sometimes called “museum board”. The mount should have a window at the front and the item should be hinged to the backboard. Do not use sticky tape to attach the work to the backboard (see picture of damage caused by sticky tape at right). Conservators prefer to use Japanese paper hinges and wheat starch paste because they are stable, long lasting and will not stain paper.  Frames can be fitted with glass or acrylic sheet. Items with loose powdery media should be framed with glass as acrylic has a static charge. In all cases there should be no contact between the item and the glazing.
  2. Place boxes off the ground (e.g. on shelves) to allow good air circulation and prevent damage in the event of a flood. 
  3. The storage area must be an insect-free environment so inspect well before use and keep it clean. If using pest strips, insect traps and pesticides ensure that these do not come in direct contact with the items as they can cause damage to paper.
  4. Ensure that there are no overhead pipes in the area, as these can drip. Placing plastic over the boxes may provide some protection but will restrict air circulation and may encourage mould growth.    
  5. Keep frames off the floor. Stand upright on blocks or pieces of foam if shelves are not available. 
  6. Avoid rolling oversize prints or maps. If this is unavoidable, roll onto a wide diameter (at least 10cm) cardboard tube, which has been covered with Tyvek™ or acid-free tissue. Wrap the rolled item with Tyvek™ or acid-free tissue.

Best protection for prints on display
The use of stable framing and mounting materials is especially important as even if the prints are being shown only for a short term exhibition they may remain in the frames after the exhibition is over.  

Correct framing is vital if you want to have your prints on display.  
  1. Glazing is a must with a works on paper like prints. The glazing should not come in contact with the object. Ultraviolet-filtering glazing is recommended especially if the room has sources of UV radiation. Note, however, that acrylics are not always appropriate for use in frames since these plastics carry a static charge that can dislodge pastel and other friable media. In such cases, ultraviolet-filtering glass can be used. 
  2. The mounting materials inside the frame must adhere to conservation standards. Conservators recommend use of pH-neutral or slightly alkaline (buffered) mats or mounts. Hinges or the non-adhesive systems should be used to attach the objects to the mount. If hinges are used, a high-quality, strong paper such as Japanese Kozo should be used with an appropriate permanent, non-staining adhesive such as starch-based paste. The back of the frame should contain backing layers of archival cardboard that are thick or dense enough to protect the object. Frames should be well sealed and hung securely. 
  3. Avoid hanging artworks in damp areas such as on un-insulated outside walls, which can be problematic in winter or during periods of high humidity. If it is necessary to exhibit on an outside wall, a moisture barrier of polyester film or Marvelseal™ can be inserted between the backing layers or over the back of the frame. 
  4. The frame should be deep enough so that its back is recessed, allowing a space for air circulation between the frame and the wall. Frames can also be held away from the wall slightly by small rubber bumpers or by push pins attached to the reverse of the frame.
Lighting Considerations
Exposure to light can cause discolouration and brittleness in paper and fading of media.
  1. Keep lighting to a minimum
  2. Tungsten light bulbs provide a less damaging type of light than fluorescent or natural light sources.
  3. Do not use frames with clip-on light fixtures. These create 'hot spots' which can dry out the paper.
  4. Do not display pictures near sources of heat or moisture.
Cleaning & Handling
  1. Check the backs of framed pictures periodically for dirt, dust, signs of mould or insect activity,
    Print damaged due to poor handling
    and to ensure that hangers and hardware are secure.
  2. Dust frames regularly. 
  3. It is important to have clean hands when handling paper based materials because paper easily absorbs skin oils and perspiration – these can cause staining and degradation. 
  4. When handling and transporting unframed works of art and documents, use a thick support paper or cardboard underneath or place your item inside a folder. When carrying a framed work, grip both sides of the frame.  
  5. If a valuable or fragile print is going to be handled frequently, it might be a good idea to create a duplicate. This way the duplicate can be referred to and the original print stored away for preservation.
And lastly a final reminder that resonates particularly with this writer's experience of the recent devastating earthquakes here in Christchurch - use closed hangers or crimp the hanging hook closed to help prevent the artwork from falling in an earthquake (we wrote in depth about this particular hazard and the lessons we learned in picture hanging advice after the Christchurch earthquakes back in May 2011).

NZ Fine Prints hope to have Lynn Campbell back on NZ Art Print News to talk about specific problems/attacks on paper, their remedies and the process of restoration later in the year.   We are very grateful to Lynn for her help in writing this article and also for her permission to use her photographs as illustrations.