Frescos need restoration

The experts from the NRLCC started work on the masnad (throne room) chamber in Quila Androon (which housed the residential quarters) and were able to restore paintings in one half of the chamber. However, the experts, who used to work in groups for a few months each at a stretch, stopped work as they were reportedly not given appropriate cooperation by the authorities.

So while one-half of the ‘masnad’ chamber is presently resplendent with glowing gold work and striking vegetable colours which have been uncovered to show off their natural beauty, the other half and another chamber in the same complex is decaying for want of conservation work since the last about two years when the NRLCC stopped work on the paintings.

Sources disclosed that the NRLCC experts had not only worked to uncover the beauty of the paintings but had tackled problem paintings also which had developed cracks. Such paintings, including one of Guru Nanak, was dismantled and put up again. They also gave chemical treatment to the paintings to ensure they did not flake off which was a major problem.

Today the paintings are in a precarious condition. A large number of paintings in the masnad chamber as well as the chamber behind it are being destroyed with the damage spreading from the lower areas to the upper ones. Strangely, no one seems to be sure as to why this is happening. Officials of the chemical laboratory said harmful chemicals were travelling up from the floor through capillary action to destroy the paintings. But even this view is contested by others who claim that the paintings were flaking off due to inordinate dryness as the water level in the area had gone down tremendously.

Whatever the reason, the steady destruction of the heritage site is there for all to witness, specially after both the chambers have been opened for public viewing. People are simultaneously awed by the breathtaking beauty of the paintings as well as saddened why no effort is being made to stem the rot. While the people look towards the state chemical laboratory, which is housed in the complex, to take a lead in the restoration work, the officials of the laboratory say they are simply not equipped nor trained for the task.

The NRLCC has a full-fledged team, including chemical experts, artisans and scientists from different fields who can pinpoint the reasons for decay of the paintings and take appropriate remedial action, said an official of the state laboratory, adding the state laboratory did not have the same kind of infrastructure nor technical expertise. Officials disclosed that the NRLCC was scheduled to take up conservation work of the painted chambers again but could not give the exact schedule.

Experts, however, opine that even if the NRLCC staff started visiting the Quila again, the entire restoration exercise could take several years before it could be accomplished.

The only way out, they said, was to develop one’s own capability of art conservation, specially when a chemical conservation laboratory was housed in the same complex. Only a dedicated team of experts based in the state could give momentum to the conservation exercise as not much headway could be made even if the NRLCC restarted work on the painting’s, they added.

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