The conservation of works of art is not only an activity aimed at preserving them, but also at shaping how they are perceived. The actions we take or fail to take reflect our perception of works of art from the past.  We filter this perception through our historical knowledge, education, aesthetic sensitivity and perception of reality. We recognize that it changes over the centuries, but can we become timelessly objective? This can be noticed by looking at the technological and aesthetic solutions used in the conservation of monuments of the last two centuries.

Conservation works, accompanied by multidimensional research, are also an important source of learning about works of art. The discovery of old techniques and the technology of their creation is a way to understand the means of expression that were consciously used to achieve such artistic effects. It is not only historical knowledge, but a way to understand the artist’s struggle with matter in order to subordinate it to his artistic vision.

Ceramics is an extremely vast and diverse area. The multitude of types of ceramic products, methods of shaping and decorating clay throughout history create an endless field for research. Those who have tried molding and decorating shapeless clay into crafts and sculptural compositions know well that ceramics is a difficult process. The knowledge of ceramics and experience resulting from numerous performed tests is accompanied each time by this one-of-a-kind anxiety when opening a ceramic furnace to see the finished product.

This variety and unpredictability of ceramics has a significant impact on its conservation and restoration. It is one of the few areas that makes very little use of ceramic techniques. Ceramics conservators carry out their work and perform reconstructions using mostly other materials that imitate ceramics. Colloquially they refer to them as „cold techniques”. The way of matching them to the ceramic material requires craftsmanship and respect for this diverse means of artistic expression.

The exhibition „W Koło ceramiki” [„Around ceramics”] presents research on technologies and techniques of antique ceramics used in the activities of the Ceramics Conservation and Restoration Studio of the Faculty of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.

The inspiration for this exhibition was a project carried out in cooperation with the Museum of Ceramic Techniques in Koło, concerning the reconstruction of a ceramic Venus figure on the basis of a damaged form in the Museum’s collection. We established cooperation in this area as part of the European Union Horizon 2020 CHANGE (Cultural Heritage Analysis for New Generations) program.

We also present a wide area of conservation research carried out at the Santo Domingo Monastery in Lima, Peru in cooperation with Centro de Estudios Andinos de la Universidad de Varsovia en el Cusco. We pay particular attention to the use of conservation techniques in the reconstruction of ceramic decorations, presenting a copy of a fragment of the 17th-century ceramic decoration of the main courtyard of the monastery.

We show a wider range of research techniques on the example of research on Renaissance tiles from excavations in Puck conducted by the Faculty of Archeology of the University of Warsaw.

I hope that the presentation of conservation techniques and research used in the conservation of ceramics in the museum, which pays special attention to ceramic techniques, will be inspiring and will reveal a different perspective on ceramics.

prof. Jacek Martusewicz,
Ceramics Conservation and Restoration Studio
of the Faculty of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art
at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw The Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw