Stress Computation, Visualisation and Measurement in: 1. Design of free-form fabric structures 2. Fine art restoration and novel artist materials 3. D

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


Tensioned fabric is being studied as a medium for sculpturing architectural enclosures, but also as an artist material used in painting. The two areas reflect the main research strengths of the two partners: Warwick University, and Courtauld Institute of Art, respectively.

The project portfolio represents inter-linked aspects of the study of fabrics, brought together under a common mathematical structure and experimental research methodology.

Project 1
The design of fabric enclosures will generate minimum energy forms, i.e, enclosures with uniform surface tension, as ovserved in soap-films. The main focus will be placed on patterning - the transformation of a stressed, 3-dimensional form into a series of 2-dimensional cutting patterns in unstrained fabric. The aim of patterning will be to ensure wrinkle-free, durable, and aesthetically pleasing solutions. The work will involve computational and mathematical modelling, testing of fabrics, optical measurements of stress/deformation fields, and building of physical models/prototypes of fabric enclosures. The relevance of the project can be seen in the context of current and future climate change, answring the demand for more out-door living spaces, and the need for safe and mobile enclosures in areas of adverse weather conditions. The lightweight nature and flexibility of fabric structures allow versatility in their application.

Project 2
The majority of paintings on canvas over 80 years old have been reinforced with a woven fabric adhered to the reverse. This often required because forces induced by the stretcher that holds the painting taught, may exceed the yield strength of the canvas, which has become embrittled with age and environmental conditions. The choice of fabric is a compromise between physical/chemical long-term stability, mechanical properties, moisture permeability, texture, handling properties, aesthetics and commercial availability. The project will focus on developing new fabrics for the structural conservation of canvas paintings and as artists' materials. It will use analytical modelling in combination with tensile testing and optical non-destructive testing to predict stresses in th canvas, resulting from differing degrees of applied tension, points of attachment, and the effects of temperature and humidity. This will lead to the design and testing prototype fabric samples. Development of high performance materials will reduce the risk to the work of art when displayed and transported and, hence increase its accessibility to the public. Similarly, design of novel artists canvases will increase the painting's longevity. These are important factors for galleries and museums acquiring contemporary works as well as insurance companies and artists. Materials deemed suitable on the basis of testing/modelling, will be given field trials by conservators and artists, to evaluate handling properties and aesthetics.

Project 3
Digital Art will be a by-product of research into stressed fabrics. The computational methodology plus optical measurements are capable of producing colour images of stress/deformation patterns developing in a given material subjected to a variety of loading/ environmental regimes. The images will have a dual roles: (i) they can be of assistance to art restorers, and (ii) can be enjoyed as art decor. In their first role they will portray stresses in paintings resulting from differing degrees of stretch of canvas, location of the main points of attachment to the frame, and the effects of temperature and humidity. In their second role, they will be displayed as free-standing silk prints, posters, and decorated glass/ceramic objects.
Pictorial representation of the research results will publicise the work involved, make it more accessible to the general public, and serve as an example of the existence of fluid boundaries between arts and engineering science.


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