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Restoring Art with Love

Since I need to regularly maintain and sometimes restore my own bronze sculptures, I’ve started doing this work for others.

Let me know of any sculptures that need repairing or restoring, especially bronze artworks that have gone a bit dull and need some TLC 🙂

Bronze is one of the most durable materials of all, but over time it darkens, the colours can become dull. The original surface coluring (Patina) is sealed under a protective UV-resistant wax coating, but this breaks down over time and needs re-applying. Oxidation, acid rain and proximity to humid salty air often causes unwanted  surface changes, such as white or greenish ‘stains’, or coppery red. Confusingly, the changes in surface colouring is also called ‘patina’. Sometimes the changes are desirable… sometimes not. If you want to maintain the original surface, the bronze should be cleaned and the wax coating re-applied annually or bi-annually.

I always provide a maintenance schedule when installing my sculptures, recommending regular removal of dust and debris and rinsing with plain water and a nylon brush… but does anyone ever read the instructions…?

Reddish copppery tones started appearing on the Illawarra Memorial Coalmining Sculpture within a few years of being unveiled.  Perhaps if it had been regularly cleaned and rewaxed this wouldn’t have happened, however it is located close to the coast and heavy industry. Salt and acid rain impact the surface of any metal, and bronze can react in unpredictable ways. It somehow retains a memory of previous surface treatments, so it’s important not to experiment with random chemicals, and definitely definitely don’t use brasso or acids! [See images above: 10 years of exposure causing green and red, and after a thorough clean and re-wax].

I recently restored another one of my bronze sculptures that hadn’t been maintained for over 10 years! [see before and after pics below – bronze portrait bust of Sir John Gorton]. The Harcourt sandstone plinth needed a clean as well – mildew and grime and some nasty green streaks, but after trying a few different solutions, combined with scrubbing and rinsing… I restored it’s natural pinkish colour. The bronze had lost all of it’s original protective wax coating, so it was relatively easy to rub it right back and reapply a bit of patina, before re-waxing and buffing.

And it was a pleasure to restore fellow artist Rowena Hannan’s sculpture ‘The Marble Game’, at Firbank College last week. I gently removed most of the green oxidation, brightened up the dull dark areas and restored the highlights. It’s lovely to see the artist’s modelling and details come back to life during the restore/re-wax process.