Saturday, September 26, 2009


Getting back into some reading of late: Tim Winton's "Breath" (Penguin 2008) is a thirlling read. I've never got across to W. A. but somehow I can utterly identify with the Australia and the youth that he evokes. "Cloudstreet" did the same for me. I know his stories have a habit of twisting into unexpected disaster and one third the way thru this one seems to be setting itself up for just that.

Equally engrossing and with just as much verissimiltude was Christos Tsolkas' "The Slap" (Allen and Unwinn 2008). Although the context here is Greek, I was right there at the family barbecue with my Italian (by marriage) heritage and could so relate to all the familial intrigue and misunderstanding. What delighted me most in Tsolkas' novel was his use of the parenthasis, describing the character's thought processes, completely at odds with what was being actually said. His skill in taking us inside the head of a different character so convincingly with every new chapter is mesmerising.

Nice to take some time out: been very busy of late, meeting a deadline for restoration work on the stained glass to the Chapel at Concord Repatriation Hospital. work is still underway but last week the first of four windows was re-installed. These were two Stephen Moor panels, both quite deteriorated with significant paint loss. Unfortunately the Hospital only had the funds to repaint one of the two but now that they have the old and new together for comparison hopefully funding will be found to carry out the necessary re-painting of the second panel in time.

Paint loss is a significant issue with many of Moor's windows. From my experience of working with him I know that standards were not rigorously maintained and firing was at times haphazard. Also his method of applying several layers of paint one after the other prior to firing, relying n the amount of gum in the paint to secure it to the glass surface, did lend itself to blistering and apparently in time eventual failure of adhesion. I have seen perhaps a dozen of his windows with much of the trace line disintegrated and the matt beginning to disappear. There are many reasons given for paint loss in stained glass but it is generally held to be the case within the trade that underfiring is a major cause.

Exfoliation is what actually happens, with the the glass painting losing it's adhesion under the stress of constant expansion and contraction of the glass due to temperature variation. consequently such loss is frequently more evident in East, North and West facing windows than in southern windows. Also at play, according to some, is organic decay though I've not researched this aspect.

By contrast, a window from the same Chapel by David Saunders, "I Am the Vine", executed oughly around the same time, is beautifully fired and showing no sign of any paint loss at all. David ran Eroica Studios in Sydney's Argyle Centre at The Rocks for about 20 years until he retired from glass about 1986 or so.

Restoration of a stained glass panel is a great way to become intimately aquainted with an artist's work. In the re-leading process one needs to first record all the relevant information, taking rubbings of the existing metalwork, noting lead sizes and location of reinforcing bars. David has a tendency to use big leads: "The Vine" is made entirely of 9.5mm and 12.4mm leads, often molded into quite tight curves- rather difficult and strenuous work. But I've been impressed by the vigorous line and the strength of his design. His paintwork is equally strong, bold and confident with much use of dense black.