UWE 3D print researchers in National Gallery link-up

Issue date: 20 November 2014


Blue oil paint on a white canvas

Researchers from UWE Bristol's Centre for Fine Print Research are celebrating a three-year link-up with the National Gallery, London.

The Collaborative Doctoral Award, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is aimed at finding ways of using 2.5 and 3D printing and scanning technology to assist in conservation of works of art and public engagement.

Director of studies and co-supervisor Dr Carinna Parraman said, “This new project came out of a European research project, CREATE, which identified a gap in the knowledge of conservators, art historians and artists on evolving technology and how it impacts on them.

“The award means PhD student Xavier Aure will look at how data acquired from digital scanning can capture and monitor changes in paintings, reliefs and sculptures. He will be working with the National Gallery archives and its Conservation and Science departments to identify layers of paint and pigment, and what happens to them over time – looking at the brush strokes, tool marks, and craquelure of the surface texture of paintings.”

The National Gallery has explored the use of digital technology in the cultural heritage sector for many years, developing high resolution colour and infrared digital cameras along with systems to share large generated images and document the surface texture of paintings.

With the input of CFPR's knowledge of 3D and 2.5D scanning and printing, this project will test and evaluate current capture and reproduction techniques, identifying how they can be used in conservation, documentation and public engagement activities, as well as the long-term monitoring of the surface structure of fragile paintings.

It will provide tools to document deformation and defects in surface of paintings, such as paint loss and surface deformations resulting from delamination of paint from canvas or panel. It will explore monitoring degrees of change over time, and the effects of conservation treatments.

To recreate high quality replicas for public engagement work the project will show how to create naturalistic rendering of texture. Texture provides important information – for example the use by the artist of brushstrokes, palette knives or scored lines all have different characteristics evident from surface texture.

The co-supervisor from the National Gallery, Joe Padfield, said, “This new research will support our research theme on the 'Meaning of Making.' It will improve technical examination, documentation and management of National Gallery paintings. It will allow conservators to record and model structural changes to the surface of a painting as a result of conservation work. It will document issues which could arise from changes in environmental conditions and which could potentially occur during the transport of paintings.

“The ability to reproduce the surface texture of paintings could also be exploited within interactive displays, educational programme and access for visually impaired visitors, allowing replicas to be handled and touched.”

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