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Vanishing Point

Sited works by Stephen Boyd within the Conservation Centre

9 October to 21 November 2004

Please note that this exhibition has now closed

painting of a line of classic biscuits including a bourbon and a custard cream

The Vanishing Point exhibition featured a number of site-specific works created by artist Stephen Boyd as a direct response to the Conservation Centre and the work of its painting conservators.

Created as part of the 2004 Liverpool Biennial, this challenging mixed media exhibition explored the effects of conservation, our notions of time and history, and their impact on how we view historical paintings.

Using light, painting, digital images and conservation equipment, Boyd captured a glimpse of the complex relationship between painting, viewer and conservator.

painting includng easel and view of conservation studio
Freight (detail)

The ‘vanishing point’ theme relates to both the visual and historical perception of time and paintings. Painters create the illusion of depth on a flat surface, often using the horizon to infer either the past or future happenings.

Vanishing point: The point at which a set of lines, which are in reality parallel to each other, seem to converge.
(The Dictionary of Art Terms, E Lucie-Smith, Thames & Hudson, 1984)

Paintings at the Conservation Centre 'undergo a form of cultural intensive care'. This means that the signs of ageing can be delayed or even reversed, saving the artworks for future generations.

detail of painting and magnified paint flake


Yet a restored painting can never be reverted to its original state because the social and historical context in which it is viewed has changed. The viewer is bound by a contemporary framework and cannot see the painting as it once was.

Both painting and viewer are subject to the process of ageing, and so every time they meet the relationship alters, even as the conservator strives to preserve it. The conservator’s slow and steady work uncovers previously hidden features or elements, and so the relationship between painting, viewer and conservator evolves.

Vanishing Point was a thought-provoking exhibition that demands the engagement of the visitor, as they themselves become part of this ever-changing process of viewing, changing and responding.

abstract painting featuring detail from a conservator's report
Palimpsest 4

Stephen Boyd

Stephen Boyd was born in 1959. He grew up in Glasgow and was educated at the Glasgow School of Art (1976-81). On completion of his postgraduate studies, he was awarded The Elizabeth Greenshield Foundation Fellowship and The Gillies Bequest from the Royal Scottish Academy. This allowed him to continue his studies in Italy for a further two years. He lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England. He is senior lecturer in Fine Art at Staffordshire University.

Work by Stephen Boyd is included in a number of collections: Advisor in Art, Hamilton, Scotland; Glasgow School of Architecture; Commune de San Gimignano; Paisley Art Institute; The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and Staffordshire University.