Watercolour painting of compost

Material connection

13 December 2022

Cressida Campbell and the National Gallery of Australia

Before their journey, delicate loaned works require careful planning and handling. 

A man wearing glasses preparing a wooden travelling frame

Preparator Robert Pulie prepares a travelling frame for one of the works

The University Art Collection includes a group of nine works by artist Cressida Campbell (b. 1960, Sydney). The Museum has recently lent four of the works – two watercolour paintings and two woodblock prints – to the National Gallery of Australia for their major new survey exhibition of Campbell’s paintings and prints. In my role as Museum Registration Officer, helping to coordinate the loan, I was honoured to spend time with the works that, like most of the artist’s oeuvre, focus on rich still-life images.

I was particularly struck by a sense of appreciation for the way Campbell has interpreted the material world as a basis for her work. Campbell draws deeply from her immediate surroundings, creating detailed and delicate still-life watercolours and woodblock prints that observe the beauty of everyday scenes. A tabletop with some limes; a view through a door to the garden outside, and even a container of compost scraps are all views that have inspired the artist.

Painting of quinces and persimmons with garden in the background

Cressida Campbell, Quinces and persimmons, 1989, relief print, The Hon RP Meagher bequest 2011, University Art Collection, UA2012.373

Working on outgoing museum loans as part of my role allows me the privilege to work closely with works such as these. With other staff, we delve into various aspects of the objects’ documentation and care in preparation for the works to travel outside our walls and reach new audiences in new places.

Outward loans involve collaboration between several team members, from both the lending and borrowing institutions, usually over many months, often years. Sending valuable objects to another institution requires detailed preparations across many areas of collection management including documentation, conservation, storage, insurance, and transport. It might involve the fabrication of bespoke travel frames or crates, careful packing in preparation for transit, and engagement of specialised carriers. All of this before the objects can finally arrive at their destination, with many of the processes repeated for the return journey.

The loan of items such as these between museums is fundamental to what we do; loaning and borrowing allows wider audiences to access and enjoy collections.

Cressida Campbell is on display at the National Gallery of Australia until Sunday 19 February 2023. 

Emma Conroy is Museum Registration Officer, Documentation, Chau Chak Wing Museum

This article was first published in issue 29 of Muse Magazine, November 2022. 

Header image: (Detail) Cressida Campbell, Compost, 1994, watercolour on carved plywood, The Hon RP Meagher bequest 2011, University Art Collection, UA2012.65