Cathy, from China, is a second year MA Conservation student on the Art on Paper and Books Pathway, specialising in art on paper. Cathy has been loaned paintings from the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, she took time to answer questions about that work and her time at Camberwell.

What did you do before joining the MA Conservation at Camberwell?

I studied Humanities for my undergraduate degree in Hong Kong, then I worked for an auction house and art gallery a few years after that. 

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on 4 19th Century Chinese export botanical paintings from the Kew Gardens collection. They are beautiful watercolour and gouache on paper, which have inappropriate backing materials attached to them and also their pigments have degradation issues. I inspected their condition, carried out historical background research, a literature review of the appropriate chemicals and materials to use in treatment, conducted some scientific analysis on them and finally conservation treatments on them to improve their condition. They are exported from Canton – where I was born and grew up, which is meaningful for me that I could be a better interpreter of these artworks to other people.

Botanical painting before lead white conversion

Botanical painting before lead white conversion

Botanical painting after lead white conversion

Botanical painting after lead white conversion

How has studying at Camberwell informed or influenced your art/design practice?

The MA Conservation programme has intense content – I started as a new comer to Conservation, I gradually acquainted myself with different techniques in Conservation such as repairs, bleaching and pigment consolidation, lining and mounting, etc. Throughout the programme I had many valuable opportunities to take up placement in different institutions such as the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew and the Victoria and Albert Museum to practice my skills.

Do you have an exhibition must see?

Other classmates are working to exciting projects like antique wallpapers, artist sketches, huge architectural plans, old Japanese colour-printed story books and old books with movable elements.

How are preparations for the Summer Show?

The schedule is very tight so we have to plan our treatments systematically and make sure we have everything needed for treatments.

Do you have plans for the summer?

In the summer I am going to do some travelling with my family in the UK. There is so much of this country that I would like to explore.

And finally do you have any advice to students looking to start the MA Conservation course at Camberwell? 

Students not from a Conservation background would be better to find some short course, internship or volunteer experience in this area before taking up the course. It is important to know what kind of materials you are interested in, art on paper or books and archival materials. Also, students who are interested should review a little bit about Chemistry if it’s unfamiliar to you.

Lotus flower painting from The Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, before treatment

Lotus flower painting from The Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, before treatment

Lotus flower painting from The Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, after treatment

Lotus flower painting from The Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, after treatment

Botanical painting being FTIR tested

Botanical painting being FTIR tested

Related links:

MA Conservation

Summer Show

Class of 2016 Blog