CONSISE NOTES ON PREPARATION OF GROUNDS, PRIMINGS AND OTHER MATERIALS.
Former Keeper of Conservation
The National Gallery, London
In 1950 Arthur Lucas was invited by the Slade Professor, Sir William Coldstream to lecture and demonstrate the methods and materials of painting to Slade students, who previously (since the 1930’s) had been taught a course called Chemistry of Painter’s Materials, by Mr H Terrey from the department of chemistry.
Lucas taught twice weekly lectures and the Methods and Materials Room in the basement of the Slade was established. The room, now a sculpture studio, had a double sink and was fitted with cupboards around all walls to store equipment with surfaces for the preparation of materials. In the centre was a magnificent large table for the preparation of panels and stretching of canvases.
Arthur Lucas taught regularly at the Slade up until his retirement from the National Gallery in the 1980’s and then only occasionally. At the end of his career his notes where complied and produced at the Slade into this small book. It contains information on supports, grounds, glues, varnishes and frames and is a testament to his life’s work and dedication to teaching.
A defining characteristic of Graduate Painting is the rich diversity of approaches to painting that includes paint on panels and stretched canvas, indoor and outdoor murals and installation-based painting in which objects, moving images, photography, printmaking and performative art can play a significant role.
This richness is shaped both by the culturally diverse international student cohort, and by the different practices of the four artists who teach on the programme. These artists share a deep fascination with material culture and its relation to artistic transformation 8211; this underlines the pedagogic thrust of the programme.
The Materials Research Project is supported by Onya McCausland, who works under the guidance of Gary Woodley and Jo Volley foregrounding the role of materials within the creative process, so the ‘what’ of a student work is always explored in relation to the ‘how’ of its making.
The Methods Room is a permanent site where students and staff experiment with materials extending their research by shared discovery, discussion and display. Although the Materials Research Project is based in Graduate Painting it is open to all Slade staff and students across the school.
The Material Research Project has three strands:
1. Guided Exploration 8211; Testing new ways of developing the relation between image and material. Different cultural materials and methodologies are explored, supported by a growing materials sample library. Technical Talks and seminars are conducted regularly by Jo, Gary and Onya on a wide range of materials-related subjects such as the properties of industrial paints and varnishes; investigating material as immaterial; supports and surfaces- laminate, veneer, vinyl, acrylic, aluminum.
2. Methods Surgery – Research is conducted to resolve a technical materials-based undertaking or problem that a student or staff member has encountered with a particular artwork.
3. Documentation – The results of research are documented. Information ranges from recipes for paints and grounds, to cataloguing materials and disseminating insights into experiences with materials, including an ongoing Image Library of materials and close up photographic imaging of the painted surface.
Onya McCausland is Honorary Research Assistant in Graduate Painting. Her practice focuses on how physical materials and their histories effect the production and meaning of the art object. She specialises in knowledge of materials and their sources in the British landscape. Onya’s painting practice extends into video, performance and installation. She is currently engaged in research flowing from the preparation of pigments with Jo Volley and scientist Spike Bucklow, HKI Cambridge University.
The Methods Room is Studio 2 of Graduate painting. It8217;s where material related questions are investigated and problems solved.
Each week the Material Research Project hosts an event such as a seminar, technical talk or materials 8216;surgery8217; in the Methods Room, Onya McCausland is there to work through ideas and material related questions for students across all areas of the school.
If you have a material related enquiry that you would like support with come to studio 2 on Fridays and Onya will attempt to help you out.