On Freedom and Grief in Destroying Old Art Work

Or Repurposing The Frames Of Old Art Works

It’s taken me a long time to come to a place where I am willing to let go of old art works for the sake of their frames; to recognise that while I might like the work, I can’t keep hanging on to stuff that is not selling.

Collage to be covered by collagraph plate of a fernWhat happened was that I wanted to enter an informal Arts Connect Inc. Members Exhibition. One of the criteria was that the work be made in the last two years.  But I didn’t have any framed recent works available.  And for all sorts of reasons my usual framer was not available.

Solution – re-use the frames of some old art that hadn’t sold.  I have some print-based collages made some 15 years ago. At that time I was framing works on paper without glass.  I figured that if I covering the work with several layer of gloss acrylic medium and then several layers of mat varnish, they would then have the same surface characteristics as an acrylic painting, and be more visible without the barrier of reflective glass.  (I don’t do that any more – I’ve come to see that it really is more professional to present works on paper framed behind glass.)

But my used collagraph printing plates have always been framed without glass, so I decided to find old collages with a frame that matched a used printing plate, and specifically for the plate I wanted to enter into the exhibition.
Image above: The collage “Gate Latch” with the plate for “Conondale Fern”, which was to cover it. This work was going into the exhibition.

"Bauhinia 2" printing plate to be glued over "Marching Now" collageSo I was surprised to find a tinge of sadness and a little anxiety in doing something so irrevocable.  Perhaps I need not have felt surprised, as I tend strongly towards saving and not wasting things. (The why of that is another story, which I may tell some other day).

But I went ahead any way.  And then came a sense of freedom and liberation, as I let go of something from the past that hadn’t sold, was not needed and had become a burden. What I was doing fitted into my current phase of down-sizing and being more focused in my art practice, and that felt good.

I needed only one frame for the exhibition, but having started I was on a roll, searching for matches between frames and used collagraph plates.

Image right: The collage “Marching Now” with the plate for “Bauhinia 2”, which was to cover it. (This plate has been sold, but the similar “Bauhinia 1” is still available.)

What I found was that mostly, although a frame and plate would match, the plate could not be simply glued over the old work because it was larger than the plate.  So I began to take the old works out first, meaning they were not actually destroyed.  So I still have them … . It is very hard indeed to destroy old art work.

Here is an example.

Albany Sedge 4 collagraph plate, in a repurposed frame.The collage removed from its frame for Albany Sedge 4.







Left: “Albany Sedge 4 Plate” in “Finger Pointing 2″‘s frame (above)

I feel that I’ve made progress, even though I have kept another 5 little collages, removed from their frames for collagraph plates. I suspect that these little collages will probably end up being discarded eventually, rather than being reframed. I still have a way to go.

If you have ever destroyed old art, I’d be very interested to learn of your experiences and feelings.  Especially if you managed to repurpose the art, as well as the frames.

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