Restoration And Conservation In Concrete Sculpture

Project and Seminar Material for Fine Arts

Restoration And Conservation In Concrete Sculpture


This thesis seeks to explore the restoration and conservation in concrete sculpture especially as concrete is one of the oldest of the sculptural medium that has been in use in our contemporary society. Overtime, concrete sculpture has been left unattended to by the non-application of preservatives thereby exposing it to the effect of strong winds, extreme humidity and abrupt temperature changes leading to structural wear; and in most cases these bring about failure of the sculpture.

The consequences of failed sculpture include the erosion of our cultural heritage, which leads to the loss of sculpture that are of historic and academic interest. In addition, sculpture failure is becoming more rampant and if not addressed may in no small way deter robust research into who we are and our productive artistic past. Based on this, objectives were set to address the problem. The methodology employed is that of survey and studio experimentation whereby failed concrete sculpture within the sculpture garden of the department of Fine and Industrial Arts of the University of Uyo were discussed.

This research found out that there is a high negligence of sculpture as an essential feature of aesthetics in our built environment. These findings will be beneficial by encouraging the society to restore and conserve its neglected sculpture for posterity sake – as failure of sculpture is failure of the society, and inadvertently failure of the sculptor(s) involved.

The study recommends that ab initio, adequate provision of sculptural materials be made to include what is essential for its sustenance and preservation. In addition, restoration and conservation ethics and code be incorporated as it is obtained in other climes.

KEYWORD: Concrete sculpture, Restoration, Conservation, Aesthetics, Installation, Society

Table of Content

  • Chapter
  • Title Page
  • Declaration
  • Certification
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgement
  • Abstract
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Plates

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

  • 1.1 Background to the Study
  • 1.2 Statement of the Problem
  • 1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study
  • 1.4 Research Question
  • 1.5 Significance of Study
  • 1.6 Delimitation of the Study
  • 1.7 Definition of Terms

Chapter Two

Review of Related Literature

  • 2.1 Preamble
  • 2.2 Theoretical Framework
  • 2.3 Conceptualizing Restoration and Conservation
  • 2.4 Historical Trends and Progression in Sculpture
  • 2.4.1 Metal as a modern Trend of Sculpture
  • 2.5 Sculpture tools and Material
  • 2.6 Concept of Outdoor Sculpture
  • 2.7 Socio-cultural Context of Sculpture
  • 2.8 Consequences of Failed Sculpture
  • 2.9 Techniques of Restoration and Conservation in concrete Sculpture
  • 2.10 Reasons for the popularity of Concrete Sculpture
  • 2.11 Museums as Repositories of Restored Sculptural Works
  • 2.12 Summary of Review Literature and Works

Chapter Three

3.0 Research Methodology

  • 3.1 Preamble
  • 3.2 Research Design
  • 3.3 Area of Study
  • 3.4 Pilot Study
  • 3.5 Population of the study
  • 3.6 Sample size and Sampling procedure
  • 3.7 Description of data gathering instrument
  • 3.8 Method of analysis
  • 3.9 Instrumentation
  • 3.10 Method of data collection
  • 3.11 Studio practical
  • 3.12 Making of Marquette
  • 3.13 Finishing
  • References
  • Appendix.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

It was only about 40,000 years before the birth of Christ, particularly where the continent of Europe was concerned, that there was a turning point which marked a distinction from preceding ages.Man began to create forms that reproduced the reality in which he lived and expressed the dark anguish and all pervading dread that dominated his existence. Prehistoric art was born. Its manifestation were many and may be grouped into sculptural and pictorial art forms (Canady, 1945). Beginning from the Neolithic period, African sculpture has steadily been progressing from its traditional origin to modern creative expressions (Fosu 1986).These new expressions are derived from a tradition whose documented origin can be traced to the period of the green Sahara between “8000-6000BC”.

Sculpture indeed have been in one way or the other the oldest of the art form in our society. Notably, it has been on the centre stage of human civilization (Fashing and Lewis, 2006). Onipede(2006) affirms that contemporary art scene in Nigeria started in the area of sculpture in the later years of the 20thcentury.

In his words:

In the 1980s, there was a resurgence of practicing artists with increasing experimentation with local materials and forms, thus defying the harsh economic realities of the times to produce artworks which are unique and distinct.

Several sculptural forms either carved on wood, stone, marble or terracotta and iron cast were discovered due to the anthropologist K. C Murray and William Fagg who brought to lime light the sculptures of the Ibibio, wooden mask, and the Ekpu carvings.Also in southern Zaria were terra cotta figures of the NOK culture with elongation, suggesting stylization and intricate design precisions were excavated. In the west were the Benin bronze and the Ife heads and in the East were the Igbo Ukwu figures, the emergence of several museums sprang up as a result of these discoveries.

However, after the introduction of Christianity into several parts of Nigeria in the 19th century which led to the decline of the culture of the people, there has been a continuous reduction in the number of sculptural figures both in our environment.

For instance, out of the six hundred (600) carved Ekpu figures in the Museum only one hundred (100) is left and of which only one (1) replica of the image is now on display at the Oron National Museum (Archibong, 2007).

Reasons are that some of these sculptural works have either disappeared due to incessant theft or fire outbreak and even outright negligence some other reasons are biological deterioration. Root or vine growth can physically fracture any out door sculpture just like tree roots or weeds can fracture sidewalks or roads. Direct dissolution of stone by lichens and ivy is also possible and the presence of such plants leads to the retentions of water which, can lead to the acceleration of other destructive processes.

Water can also be seen to carry soluble salt and it plays a role in the aggressive attack on concrete by industrial air pollutants. Since the 19th century, the destructive properties of sulfur (released when fossil fuels are burned) have been well documented. Sulfur reacts in the atmosphere to form sulfur dioxide, which in turn combines with available moisture to form sulfur acid. When in contact with cement sculpture both of which are calcium carbonates) the sulfuric acid transforms the surface of the cement sculpture to gypsum (calcium sulfate) this transformation has several unfortunate results.

Today restoration in sculpture is not only limited to the cleaning and repair of major damage. More is still to be done by exploring the medium and the structural reinforcement needed and its mode of conservation.
This is what informs the researcher’sinterest in carrying out this study.Since sculpture has the power to engage our attention in a way that our “everyday” environment cannot,we owe it to the future generation to preserve our sculptural heritage. it is on this basis that the sculptor and his sculpture creates impact in the society.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

A walk around our environment shows some level of artistic awareness especially in the area of sculpture. These sculptural installations enliven our society. Cement is the main sculptural material readily employed by artist in our society such that most tombstones in the environment have sculpture works adorning them. What began as a well-intentioned art of enlivening the environment is becoming an eyesore, owing to the level of deterioration and neglect. Obviously, it can be argued that these concrete sculptural works were built without the realization of the inevitable need for preservation. Like man himself, everything he builds, including sculpture, ultimately falls into the state of disrepair, thereby needing maintenance, preservation and conservation.

Sculpture has suffered neglect; that is why we are experiencing its failure in recent times. During installation, there is no standardized means of checking the adequacy of materials employed to determine if they can stand the test of time. Like the problem of collapsed cement building being faced in our country, we are beginning to be confronted with the problem of sculpture failure owing to neglect and the use of sub standard materials. Outdoor concrete sculpture lack preservative, conservative ethics thus leading to its failure, which is now becoming a problem in the society. That is why the researcher has a keen interest in its restoration and preservation.

The question arises: How do we keep sculpture from failing? That is why there is a need for restoration and conservation practices.

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

Specific Objectives of the Study

The objective of this research is to ensure the use of suitable materials for the erection of sculpture and its conservation in order to avoid its failure.

Objectives of the Study

The study sought to explore the following objectives:

  1. To examine carefully identify the causes of failed concrete sculptures within the University of Uyo.
  2. To examine the types and various medium of expression in concrete sculptural installation.
  3. To specify and recommend suitable materials with adequate structural reinforcement for outdoor sculptures.
  4. To examine the techniques employed in erecting concrete sculpture.
  5. To ensure that sculpture being the oldest form of art that involves humans practice is well preserved for posterity.

1.4 Research Questions

This study sets out to answer the following Questions:

In what way can one identify its courses?

  1. What are the causes of failed sculpture within the University of Uyo?
  2. What are the various types and medium of expression in outdoor concrete sculptures within University of Uyo?
  3. In what way can we adapt suitable materials with adequate and structural reinforcement for outdoor concrete sculptural installation?
  4. To what extent can we ascertain the suitability of the technique employed?
  5. What do we do to conserve sculptural pieces?
  6. Is the restoration and conservation of sculpture necessary as an academic practice?
  7. What specific role should it play in learning and research?
  8. In what can the restoration and conservation of sculpture contribute to the body of knowledge?

1.5 Significance of the Study

The research will encourage the proper execution of sculpture with the use of adequate and suitable materials. It will reposition sculpture as the oldest art practice in order for it to take its pride of place in the contemporary art scene by minimising to the barest its failed state. It is also hoped to serve as reference sources for aesthetics ethnographic and anthropological research interest for the future.

This study is significant as it will revive interest in the art of restoration and conservation failed sculptures it will open up new array of techniques in restoration and conservation.

1.6 Delimitation of the Study

The study area will be the whole of sculpture garden of Fine and Industrial Arts department of the University of Uyo (one of the citadel of learning that houses the largest number of outdoor concrete sculptures in AkwaIbom State).

There are various media through which outdoor sculptures are executed within the University of Uyo. The study will be delimited to the use of concrete as a medium of expression.

1.7 Definition of Terms

There are some operational terms used in this work which require special mention of how they are applied, and their usage. They are defined conceptually and contextually as follows:


Branch of Philosophy concerned with the nature of beauty and its relation to the perceiver or beholder, especially as applied to the Fine Arts. Also, the study and philosophy of the quality and nature of sensory responses to, but not limited by the concept of beauty.


A sculptural term that means building up, assembling, or putting on material.


It consist of sculpture and other pictorial objects created for people to admire or think about with aesthetic sense.

Bas Relief Sculpture:

An artwork, graphic in concept but sculptural in application, utilizing relatively, shallow depth to establish images. The space development may range from where very limited projection known as low relief to exaggerated space development known as high or bas relief.


A sculptural technique in which liquid materials are shaped by being poured into a mould

Concrete Sculpture:

These refers to sculpture that has been constructed in pure cement combined with small amounts of sand along with very small gravel as filler and a strengthening agent. Color may be added to this mixture or it may be painted on after the cement has become hard and lost all of its moisture.


To keep from losing it value or wasting. The act of preserving in a sound state.


A thing that is modern, current, up to date, fashionable, existing in the present day.


Possessing or creating the illusion of possessing the dimension of depth as well as the dimensions of height and width.


The use of experiments on experience as the basis of idea.


This may include bituminous coatings, waxes, paints, galvanizing and plating. In addition, casting may be given a variety of treatments to reduce rusting and corrosion in the environment.


A likeness or imitation of a person or thing, statue or a picture of an object formed.


The force of impression of one thing on another i.e. the influence, impression, effect etc of one thing or another.


Interior or exterior settings of media created by artists to heighten the viewers awareness of the environmental space.


The sculptural technique of shaping pliable materials by hands or tools.


Sculpturally medium can be molten melted, brass, bronze copper fibre glass etc. as well as sand, sawdust. It can by extension be used to describe the various techniques in sculpture.


Oxidation as used in this study occurs when a compound of oxygen with another elements combines with available moisture to form sulfuric acid.


A natural film, usually greenish that results from the oxidation of bronze or other metallic material. Two colour pigments and or chemicals applied to a sculptural surface.


This involves preservative treatments which are typically barrier coatings intended to prevent the castings from oxidizing, rusting in the presence of humidity and oxygen in the air.


Is the work that involves studying something and trying to discover facts about it.


This involves many aggressive methods aimed at erasing or disguising any damage or loss due to age, weathering or accident, also limited to the cleaning and repair of major damage in order to improve, bring black the aesthetic appearance of the sculpture.


An area that stands out from the space next to or around it due to a defined or implied boundary or because of differences in value, colour or texture.


In sculpture replacing one material or medium with another.


A sculptural term meaning the carving or cutting away of material.


It is a particular method of doing an activity, usually a method that involves practical skills in sculpture giving it a depth and brilliance hitherto unknown.


Is a formal set of ideas that is intended to explain why something happens or exists. A theory is usually expressed in the form of a statement usually expressed in the form of empirical laws of all the observed cases of a particular phenomenon.

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