28 February 2009

Week 2: in the main dome

In the main dome we are facing extensive flaking of the paint layer, a heavy layer of surface soot and dirt, and a heavily overpainted surface. Our aim is to stabilise the paint layer, then clean it with molecular sponges, then an aqueous clean before removing overpaint, filling losses and cracks. Finally the damaged sections will be inpainted.

This movie is a quick view of the worksite and consolidation in process

Week 2: cleaning the painting

Cleaning the painting - the beard is cleaned to half way down

Cleaning test 1

The painting before treatment. It has two large holes, large sections of non-original over paint, a huge rectangular patch and a heavy layer of surface dirt.

Week 2: Lowering the central painting

Lowering the central canvas to ground level

Anna inspecting the back of the painting in the main dome.

Taking down the central painting from the dome

Noel undoing the screws holding the painting in place

Paul Phillips loosening the central nut

Access to the central painting and main domed ceiling was achieved on Friday the 20th. The scaffolders transfered the weight of the chandelier to the scaffolding. It was all hands on deck to take the painting down. The painting was unscrewed, and wrapped up to protect it. It was lowered with 4 ropes, 2 for the weight, one safety and one guide.

27 February 2009


Anna, Melissa and Arek studying the painting before beginning a treatment.

23 February 2009

Week 1 - Great Hierarchs, Iconostasis

Image: this image shows a half clean, half dirty section of an icon. The cotton swab shows how much dirt is actually removed.

On the ground, work has almost been completed on the three Hierarchs. These were taken down, cleaned, some minor damages touched up. A protective semi-matt varnish was applied. Finally the glass was cleaned and they are now ready for installation.

Many of the paintings in the iconostasis have been taken down for conservation. These are in the process of being cleaned. It is expected that that the icons will be cleaned, stabilised and re-installed gradually over the next few weeks.

Week 1 - Panagia - Semi Dome

Image: This image is showing a section of the wall paintings after a cleaning test

This week the team; Adam, Anna, Arek, Matteo, Melissa and Noel arrived from Sydney to begin work on the conservation of the paintings within the church.

The scaffolding was already up in the sanctuary and work was immediately started in stabilising the paint layer. The consolidation process in basic terms involves applying a conservation grade glue behind the paint flakes with a fine paint brush or syringe and laying them back into position.
The next stage was to clean the painting and tests began into how exactly to do this.

With time a significant layer of grime has accumulated, generally a smoke and dust mixture quite common in churches. The cleaning will be carried out in two parts, first dry cleaning with a molecular sponge to lift away the lightly adhered dirt. Secondly with a water based cleaning agent that removes the remaining dirt.

The tests have been very promising and the paint comes up quite beautifully. This coming week Noel and Matteo will be spend cleaning the paint surface, filling losses and re-touching damages.

Video: Paint layer consolidation

16 February 2009

The Conservation Team

The conservation team for this project is led by Adam Godijn and Arek Werstak. They are supported by Matteo Volonte, Noel Turner, Anna Diakowska-Czarnota* and Melissa Harvey*. This team has extensive experience in the conservation of wall paintings and icons on canvas and timber supports.

* Anna and Melissa will only work on paintings outside the Sanctuary.

Adam Godijn is Senior Paintings Conservator at ICS, and is experienced in managing large conservation projects. He has conserved paintings and frames for major government institutions around Australia including Australian Parliament House, National Library, National Portrait Gallery and the State Library of NSW.

Arek Werstak is a paintings conservator who has previously lived and worked in Greece for several years as a conservator. He has experience with the conservation of Greek Icons and wall paintings. Arek is also fluent in Greek. Arek has 30 years of conservation experience worldwide and has worked on many large wall painting projects. These have included the Childrens Chapel at St James’ King St, Sydney and the painted chancel at St Marks, Darling Point Sydney.

Matteo Volonte is a paintings conservator from Italy, who trained in Milan and has extensive experience on wall paintings and frescos. He is attributed with re-discovering important frescos beneath layers of plaster at the “Santa Maria Della Torre” in Sovere, Italy. He then spent several years revealing these frescos and conserving them.

Anna Diakowska-Czarnota has over 35 years experience in painting conservation on icons, panel paintings and canvas paintings. After teaching painting conservation in Poland she joined ICS and has worked in Australia for 20 years. Major projects have included the Kalgoorlie Boulder “Goatcher” stage curtain, the Childrens Chapel at St James’ King St Sydney and the restoration of the highly ornate interior of “Swifts” in Darling Point Sydney.

Melissa Harvey is a frames conservator and assistant paintings conservator, and has been involved in the arts world for the past 12 years.

Noel Turner has worked as a paintings and frames conservator with almost 12 years of paintings conservation training and experience.

Adam Godijn
Senior Paintings Conservator
International Conservation Services

14 February 2009

This blog

International Conservation Services have set up this blog to help keep the members of the Hellenic Community of Western Australia informed about the conservation work we are undertaking on the wall paintings in their Cathedral of Saints Constantine and Helene in Perth.

We will be posting progress reports on our work, along with details of the conservation work we are undertaking. We hope that this blog will provide a community record of the conservation works to this collection of wall paintings in the Cathedral of Saints Constantine and Helene.

David West
Executive Director
International Conservation Services

The Project

The Hellenic Community of WA’s Cathedral of Saints Constantine and Helene in Perth contains a number of significant wall paintings. Unfortunately, these paintings have suffered damage and deterioration due to water penetration through the roof and walls of the building, and subsequent moisture retention in the building walls.
The building was designed by architects Oldham, Boas & Ednie-Brown, and constructed in 1935-37 in the InterWar Byzantine style. It is listed on the WA State Register of Heritage Places.

The Panagia (half dome) and Pantocrator (main dome) paintings are painted onto fibrous plaster board fixed to a timber sub-frame. The central element of the Pantocrator is an oil painting on canvas, as are a number of other important wall paintings through the Cathedral.

Following correction of the problems with water penetration, the Hellenic Community of WA have obtained funds to conserve the wall paintings. During February and March 2009, International Conservation Services will be undertaking a programme of conservation works including cleaning and stabilisation of all areas, repair of physical damage to the paintings on canvas, and inpainting of areas of paint loss.

Julian Bickersteth
Managing Director
International Conservation Services