Accelerated Ageing


Accelerated Ageing is a method used to determine the future ageing characteristics of a mechanism or material. In fine art conservation, it is employed to gain a better understanding of the implications of a treatment with regard to the longevity and stability of a work of art. It is also the means whereby new materials and technologies can be tested to assess their suitability and predicted long term applications. The validity of accelerated ageing tests relies on a controlled environment and standardised conditions in order to assess the impact of external factors.

 Accelerated Ageing, (2018) Silver mirroring on x-ray film details, 24 x 30cm (overall dms; 182cm x  88cm)

I have adopted this process of accelerated ageing to induce deterioration rapidly in photographic negatives by converting the silver nitrate particles suspended in the gelatine emulsion to silver sulphide, also known as silver mirroring. This silver mirroring is the result of the diffusion of silver ions in the emulsion from the inner layer to the oxidised outer layer where they react with external sulphur containing compounds such as hydrogen sulphide. 

This concept of accelerated ageing is mirrored in my sense of time. As I age, time appears to speed up and in the blink of an eye, 18 years have passed. Current discourse on societal pressure would suggest that our children are growing up in a ‘polluted’ atmosphere full of predators, where their every move is recorded, controlled, policed and anticipated. In this perceived state, the exposure to and effect of external influences (pollutants) raises the age old issue of nature versus nurture and whether our behaviour is determined by our environment and to what extent.

Using wax as a resist, I have made drawings of my daughters on recycled x-ray negatives from birth to young adult, and selectively exposed the drawings to pollutant gasses in a temperature controlled humidity chamber.  

The formation of silver sulphide on the photographic surface produces a beautiful multi-coloured shine, reflecting that despite our distorted fears of current society, it does not mean that the outcome will be negative, sometimes as in accelerated ageing tests, positives can result and something quite precious is created.