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Can a conservator be an artist also ?

Here is for today's food for thought ! Some of you may have noticed that aside being a paper conservator, I am also a huge creative person that dries out when not being able to create for a while. Some of you may not know this, because I am careful to separate both my activities, I even share art under an alias. But why so many secrets ?

Well, I found that clients say we are artists (which I tend to disclaim) and peers are often dubious when it comes to being a paper conservator that is also an artist, because we want to prevent interpretation or appropriation when conserving, and when it comes to it I am first to advocate against personnal interpretation !

So, is being a paper conservator and an artist incompatible? I made a 10 bullet points list (because I am a paper conservator and therefore organized). I would LOVE to have your feedback on the matter, that would be amazing !

❆ 1- I would not be a paper conservator if I had not developped a passion for arts, which often shows through creativity when you are a kid that can't theorize yet on art history (not everyone's background but loving the arts sounds essential)

❆ 2- Time gain, it allows you to understand techniques quicker, and at times at first sight instead of opening a theoretical book or starting tests, that's the power of work experience vs theory (testing is good though)

❆ 3- Understand the intention of the artist as if you had spoken to him, which prevents interpretation (need to be detached enough)

❆ 4- Be respectful of each artwork and treat them individually because you understand best the struggle or emotion behind

❆ 5- Relax, I find that I frustration is cast away if I create on the side, which puts me totally at the service of the artist's artwork I am conserving. Everyone has their turn, and I know where my place is !

❆ 6- Being able to advise contemporary artist's without sounding bossy, of course I want the best for durability, but then you can help an artist find compromises to keep his intention. (Especially useful in the case of mixed media, sculpture, and framing)

❆ 7- When creating I can experiment freely with materials, as I know they will be a great support for conservation testing. I use my own works as guinea pigs before trying treatments on artworks that are not my own. Sometimes I actually do create works just for that purpose.

❆ 8- Being able to create your own tools, one of the main quality of a conservator is to be resourceful.

❆ 9- I also recycle scraps of blotter, thread, remains of paste and so on for new artworks. Which will be useful for conservation material analysis in a few years, I will gladfully give my artworks to science. Creating a new genre of art that can be purposefully disasembled, sampled etc. !

❆10- Being an experimental artist, I actually create works to conserve for future generations of conservators ! (hey don't thank me)

❆ Bonus- Have fun ! (ok that's a lame one) But really if that's something you feel like doing don't prevent yourself because you are a conservator. I find that there is some kind of confusion or even shaming going on with paper conservators that create (I did not find myself always comfortable with the reception I had when peers learnt I could create)

What do you think ?

ex-voto series by Sieglinde Gerhardt (artist's alias of Ségolène Girard) gouache on paper with varnish finish, 7 x 8 cm.

@loperatorium

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