Date of release: Monday, March 24, 2014

Painted HallA rare behind the scenes look at conservation of the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) has been captured in a new film by University of Greenwich students. Shot over six months, a crew of eight students documented its skilful conservation work as a series of masterpiece paintings by Sir James Thornhill was painstakingly repaired.

The footage captures the intricacies of the first phase in the Painted Hall’s conservation and was created as an industry work practice project for the final-year film students.

The students documented the conservation work in full, allowing online viewers to get as close as those in the hall, including virtual tours of the scaffolding. They also recorded the removal of years of surface deposits on the hall’s masterpieces, and the reintegration of paint layers lost over time. Also included were interviews with key participants and the public, as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s requirements for public engagement activity.

David Grant, Mayor of London, spoke to the crew at one of the ‘celebration days’, where finished work was unveiled. “It’s amazing,” he says. “I saw the paintings up close before the work, when they were dirty and cracked. To come back and see them in all their glory is just tremendous.”

Unexpected challenges had to be solved by the students, including very low light levels in the Painted Hall. As student Robin Guy discovered: “There is a surprising amount you can see in person that you can’t see on the camera.” This meant pushing the cameras to get the best possible image with the light available, successfully balancing it with loss of focus. Practical support and expert advice came from professional filmmakers and Val Brown, Senior Lecturer in Film in the Faculty of Architecture, Computing & Humanities.

However, the unique opportunity had its own reward. “We have all learned so much about the Painted Hall,” he says. “I never imagined we would be able to see the walls this high up from so close.”

Short films were produced by the students, which are now available to view on the ORNC website. One was also featured in a special exhibition about the Painted Hall, “We Got Up Close”, showcasing the creative contributions of different community participants. A third, extended, film brings together footage from throughout the project to tell the story of Phase I, and is now available to view on the ORNC website and Youtube channel.

Jess Croll-Knight, the Foundation’s Learning & Community Engagement Officer, says: “The students were brilliant. From the start they were professional, dedicated and creative, and they also showed a lot of flair.”

The university’s industry work practice projects aim to benefit students and employers by placing them in professional businesses with specific briefs.

To find out more about studying film at Greenwich, see: http://www2.gre.ac.uk/study/courses/ug/film/p303

Picture: Painted Hall at the ORNC, courtesy of ORNC and Jigsaw Design & Publishing.

Story by Public Relations