In conjunction with the Hunterian’s centenary celebration of post-war British painter, Joan Eardley, this interdisciplinary research project illuminates the artist’s material experimentations and studio practice in both Glasgow and Catterline. Often amid chaotic spaces or unforgiving weather, Eardley wrestled a language of painterly abstraction through gestural speed, figuration, aggressive color. In symbiosis with her environments, she appropriated candy wrappers, street debris, boat paint, grasses as she painted. This research aims to better understand Eardley’s use of non-traditional materials through detailed technical examination of four paintings in the Hunterian collection.
Each work will undergo non-invasive imaging (ultraviolet, raking, visible light, RTI); infrared reflectography to illuminate painting underlayers; portable X-ray fluorescence to seek potential pigment composition. Where possible, microscopic paint samples will be extracted to analyse pigment chemistry and layer structure via Scanning Electron Microscopy and Energy-Dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. These examination findings will help contextualize The Hunterian’s concurrent exhibition of Eardley’s work, address conservation concerns regarding her unstable surfaces, and create long-overdue space to position modern female artists as rigorous technical innovators.
Research outputs include a published article of project results; a hand-illustrated zine that visualizes the microscopic and multi-spectral examination techniques of technical art history; contributions to blogs, podcasts, and talks organised for the centenary.
For more information, check out the article in the Scottish Society for Art History newsletter (no. 67, autumn 2021, p. 17).