To frame or not to frame.
Artists have an important decision to make when choosing frames to compliment their works. That is presuming of course that the works need to be framed. Some works are obviously not meant to be framed, such as sculptures. Other examples are stretched canvas' or photos printed on heavy stock that can be hung on a wall as is. Sometimes it can look good in an exhibition, if most of the works are framed conventionally & under glass, with a few un framed to add an interesting point of difference.
Assuming a work needs to be framed, artists must decide a number of things, including what style of frame will suit their picture. Though no matter what ends up being used, it is important not to over shadow the art. That doesn't necessarily mean the frame needs to be minimalistic, it only means that all components should be harmonious and project the work successfully.
For one or for all.
When framing an exhibition, pay special attention to whether you want to frame each picture individually, or as part of something bigger.
If you were to frame every picture differently to all the others several things can happen.
Firstly the pictures themselves will be treated no doubt in a more decorative way. They will look as though each one has been framed as though you were going to hang that one picture by its self, and have therefore given special attention to exactly how it is framed. This has a bonus when people see the framed work, as they can imagine the picture in situ, where they may want to hang it, therefore aiding their buying decision. Because the frame has been specifically chosen, the painting may also be enhanced, bring out aspects that you feel are key to the concept of this single picture. This method also ensures that there is no compromise on size or style in order to conform to any other un related picture.
However, framing this way en mass can give a disconcerting & unprofessional feel to an exhibition.
It will also take longer to choose all the different styles at the framer, which not only means more time, but more money as well.
Framing everything the same or similar can have the effect of pulling the whole concept of an exhibition together. This holistic approach to framing is what most artists do, & is what most galleries prefer. In fact over a long period of time and over a broad cross section of artists, it is the more established, confident & inevitably successful people that have the most conformist & simple of framing requirements. An added bonus to this mind set, is that if you don't sell a particular work, you can always use the frame on another picture in your next show.
Framing this way can have its drawbacks as well. You may find yourself with one picture that just doesn't fit in with the way everything else has been framed. There may be occasions as well, where someone comes along to your show, loves all your pictures, but hates the frame. And as all your works are in the same frame, that means they hate all the frames.
All those who successfully make their way through art school should have at least a workable knowledge of conservation. They should know how to source acid free materials. How to prime a canvas & how to transport chalks. How to handle photographs & how to store paper. There are many more facets than these, though the one vital point & implementation of conservation, is to protect the artwork through the future.
Conservation in framing has many guises. Arguably the four most important of these is to use proper boards, Attach works to frames properly, keep glass off artwork & to use appropriate glazing.
- The use of proper boards most basically means don't use masonite or mdf. Proper picture framing has no need for these materials, so proper picture framers will not use them. Despite the gravely serious health ramifications from these boards, they contain a lot of acid that can destroy an artwork if left unchecked.
If you want your picture to last a significant period of years, you should put it on acid free materials. These are widely available & offer much protection against the ravages of time. Essentially they are designed so that they do not contain acid. It is the acid that will leach into your picture & literally burn it a different colour. Acid also reacts with many inks, changing their composition, colour & lifetime.
Many different companies produce acid free materials of different grades, with different claims of success. From those that buffer regular stock, through the use of such things as alpha cellulose into the realms of cotton rag. Each has different qualities & each is essentially acid free. While even conservation experts seem to disagree on what type is best, they all have the same aim in mind. To protect you picture.
- Attaching pictures into frames is another tricky area where artworks can end up being improperly framed. Essentially the main problem with fixing a work in place is the balancing act of keeping the picture where you want it, & making sure it can be removed at a later date.
There are many gums, tapes & glues on the market that your framer should be able to deploy in order to best present your picture. However, no matter how good some of these methods are, you may have to make the decision between whether your picture looks good, or will last forever.
For instance, some home made papers are very out of shape & thick. If you can't sew the paper to a backing, you may need to glue it with something that you know is going to last the distance. This may mean that the picture will heavily resist its removal further down the track. This is not very archival, though it will be the only way to get tour picture looking its best.
Some framers will try to dry or block mount your works. Unless they really know what they are doing this is a big no no. There are exceptions for linen backing & the archival sticking to some foamcores or aluminium sheets. Though you should be very wary of people that suggest such methods. And only allow those who you trust implicitly, to do so.
Another big no no, is to attach a picture to a conventional mat, by sticking it all the way round the paper edge in order to get it sitting flat. As paper is a very porous material, you will find your picture crinkled out of all acceptable limits within the first couple of days. Temperature &. humidity play absolute havoc with pictures in Australia because of of volatile climate. Photos are by no means safe either, as they can split in two if framed in this way. The best way to deal with works on paper, is to treat them as though they were a piece of fabric. Hinge the paper from the top edge & let the picture hang. This allows the paper some degree of movement, in much the same way as gaps in the footpath stop the concrete cracking. Not all artworks that buckle are the result of poor framing however. It is often merely the natural way in which the environment impacts the paper.
Care should also be taken when dealing with canvas, so that the outer edge of the strainer or stretcher is the only part that comes into contact with the back of the painted surface.
- The reason that glass should not touch a picture, is that over time an artistic medium can graft itself firmly to the glazed surface.
Keeping glass off the picture is more important with some mediums over others. While it is best for all pictures to have a comfortable gap, things such as chalks, dry pastels & graphites are natural lubricants and will never stick (Even though they may smudge). Things such as photos or thick oil paintings are two of the most crucial to keep separated, because when they stick, they never let go.
The way to separate art from glass is easy. Use a mat with flat works on paper, as its width will hold the glass above the picture by about 2mm. With textured or undulating works, you can use a spacer to create a box frame. This creates a theoretically unlimited gap between glass & artwork, facilitating the framing & glazing of very out of shape items such as textiles & heavily layered collages.
- Glazing is deemed appropriate or inappropriate by the combination of many factors.
For instance, it would be inappropriate to put glass on a large abstract work on canvas that was to be hung without a frame. The reasons for this are, that there is no frame to hold the glass, it presents fine without it & the cost may be confronting.
A small & fine pastel on the other hand would benefit greatly from the glass. Through protection, formal presentation & manageable cost.
So now what we have, are two examples of what should & what shouldn't be glazed. We do not have what sort of glazing would be appropriate.
The small pastel could be approached in many different ways.
One way would be to say that it is a small work, so normal glass would suffice. For if you were to frame a larger work, there is a greater chance of breaking the glass & damaging the picture with the shards. One way to get around these common breakages in a big picture is to use perspex. Though as this is a small picture, there is no need.
Another way you could glaze this picture is with standard non reflective glass. While this is of minimal archival importance. In exhibitions it can give the works a dull, lifeless look.
Perspex is the next step up in conservation glazing as it protects your picture in many ways. As mentioned before, t it is difficult to break, therefore stopping your picture being slashed or scratched by accidents. The other way that it works is in the UV blocking power it has. When you look at a poster that has been left in the sun you can see that it looks blue. This is because the UV breaks down the inks, especially the magenta. Artworks left in direct sunlight will also deteriorate in this fashion, so if you wish your colours to live on, you should consider perspex. However it does scratch easily & cost more. So on an exhibition you may find normal picture framing glass more appropriate.
After perspex, there are a range of museum glasses that have roughly the same conservational qualities. These are amazing products that are amazingly expensive. because of this cost, they are usually relegated to framing artifacts hundreds of years old, & therefore have no real place in modern art exhibitions.
Gallery Vs Cafe.
Many artists that are just starting out, choose to exhibit their work in a cafe to maximize exposure and minimize commission.
A worthwhile alternative to conventional picture framing. KIT Frame can make the difference between an exhibition and a no show.
Unless you're striving for a specific look, stretch your paper properly so that it sits flatly in the frame. Thin papers and copious uses of wet mediums can also make a picture really misbehave.
Most framing materials come in standard sized sheets. Check with your framer before you begin any major exhibition, as to what these sizes are, and how they may effect your price. At some framers an extra inch of width will cost an extra $100. At others it will make no difference.
If your work has a good chance of being taken over seas, consider framing your pictures with perspex, or quickly removable frames for easy transport.
Give yourself plenty of time before you need your pictures, as your framer may experience delays. These delays, if not planned properly, may extend past opening night.
We sell wine boxes filled to the brim with bits & pieces of mat & foamcore. These are cheap & a good source of small acid free materials to work & play with.