Thesis: Conservation-Restoration of Djamel Tatah’s Works. The problem of shining (2003)

Posted on Wed, 10/29/2008 - 07:16
by Florence Feuardent
Final thesis l’Ecole d’art d’Avignon
October 2003

Djamel Tatah is a contemporary artist who found his artistic expressions through a pictorial technique based on oil and carnauba wax (wax of the palm tree Copernicia cerifera). This technique should results in an extremely matt painting, but even during creation it presents problems that can be characterised as shining. Indeed, every contact with the surface generates a cumbersome brightness that hinders the legibility of the work. The artist recognises the problem and seeks, on the one hand, to restore the works that already have this brightness, and on the other hand, to improve his basic technique in order to change the sensitivity of the surface. These two questions served as guidance for the research.

As a start, the research required a significant study of the material components and of the phenomenon of deterioration, that is the shining of the medium. Subsequently many tests were carried out in order to find the answers to the artist’s questions. The objective was not necessarily to find solutions, but to make a precise study of the occurring problems, and to be in contact with the artist throughout the whole process.

To this end the artist and the conservator agreed that the conservator would be involved during the process of creation. Having knowledge on the materials it is likely that the conservator comes up with ideas, not only after the work is finished, but also before and during the creation process. An important factor to make such collaboration between the artist and the conservator to a success, is that the conservator not only has a good comprehension of the technique, but also understands the work and especially the artist. If the relationship is good, it will bring knowledge enrichment to both sides, to the artistic as well as to the conservation field.

Today there are limits to the restoration possibilities for the works of Djamel Tatah, since no concrete solution was found. Even when under constraint the conservator must except that solutions may not be found. This study also shows the importance of preventive conservation and investigates the relationship with the artist, all the way. Contemporary art is a new domain within cultural heritage and this new situation requires more documentation and exchanges with the artists. As for Djamel Tatah, perhaps in a few years the materials and new techniques will bring the answers necessary to conserve-restore his paintings.