Museum's host internship for art collection and research in art conservation

Posted on September 07, 2020

The University of Pretoria Museums highlight one of the contributions they make to the academic programme. In this case, to art conservation and the internship that the UP Museum’s annually take on board to provide postgraduate students experiential research using artworks and items selected from the museum collections and archives.

Salomé le Roux is a master’s student in MSoc Sci Tangible Heritage Conservation, a program in the School of Arts in the Faculty of Humanities. Her proposed study is titled, “A technical survey of Lucky Madlo Sibiya’s (1942-1999) materials and techniques employed in his carved and painted wood panel artworks.” Early into her study, it became evident that there are no studies on the techniques and materials used by modern black South African artists. Accounts of what techniques and choices of materials they used are based on perception and ‘guess work’, and not on scientific investigation.

For her study, Salomé chose the South African artist and sculptor, Lucky Madlo Sibiya (1942-1999). The University of Pretoria has four works by this artist, many of which due to their age, will require intervention and conservation at some point in their lifetime. The four works are: A Family Group – diptych (1987); Doorknob (1987); Sun Man (1995); and Traditional Musicians (1996) (on permanent loan from Sanlam).
To understand the technicality of Sibiya’s artworks and to identify the materials used by the artist, the study required an art conservation and technical art history perspective. Supporting her research on the four artworks, complimented by primary records in the Art Archive, is a short internship with the Art Conservator, Sandra Markgraaf. The internship in art conservation aims for the student to gain broader knowledge of art materials, and to better understand and identify materials and techniques used in art conservation. Covered during the internship is the investigation of polychrome techniques and materials – thus, supports, binding mediums, pigments, and varnishes. Other aspects such as, drying and curing of oils and grounds, cellulose structures, mechanical properties, ageing, damage, and deterioration is included.

The active use of the museum art collection by postgraduate students is encouraged and the opportunity to host a variety of internships within the institution, particularly within the niche of art conservation which is considered a scarce skill, is fostered. Salomé le Roux will complete her short internship with the UP Museums before the end of her academic year in October and next year continues her main internship at Yale University, New Haven, with Dr Aniko Bezur at the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. The museum art conservator, Sandra Markgraaf also lectures the introduction on the conservation of polychrome surfaces module in the Master’s program for Tangible Heritage Conservation.

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