Arts & CultureLIFESTYLE

Working as a Paintings Conservator in Malaysia

Kristin Rattke, one of the few paintings conservators in the nation, gave her first talk in Ipoh on Saturday, May 19 at So-mn to over 30 art enthusiasts.

Ipoh Echo had an exclusive one-on-one with the amiable Kristin who hails from Germany. She earned a bachelor’s degree in cultural heritage and conservation studies in 2012 from University of Oslo, Norway and a master’s degree in paintings conservation in 2014, also from the same university.

She had been working with medieval church art in Norway and Denmark and restored large-scale paintings in the Netherlands before joining the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur in 2017.

Specialising in easel paintings and painted surfaces (paintings on canvas, wood, metal, etc.), she explained what keeps her doing what she is doing, “Being able to work with amazing art every day and learning about materials as well as artist techniques. It’s also a lot about the people because you get to meet so many different people like curators, owners, the public and the artists themselves who all care about art. I think that’s very exciting!”

According to her, the code of ethics states that the conservator-restorer shall not remove material from cultural heritage unless this is indispensable for its preservation or it substantially interferes with the historic and aesthetic value of the cultural heritage. Materials, which are removed, should be conserved, if possible, and the procedure fully documented.

When asked on one memorable piece that she has worked on in her career, she enthused, “The Menagerie of Prince Willem V by Aart Schouman was a special project because the paintings were so big, so I learnt how to work in a team, talk to the public and carry out a treatment over several months.”

What’s a typical day like for her in the museum? “At the moment I am preparing paintings for an exhibition, which will take place in the British Museum in London in 2019. So I have to check the condition of the paintings, write treatment proposals and carry out treatments if necessary,” Kristin said to Ipoh Echo.

“In Malaysia, one challenge was having to import the necessary equipment and solvents from Europe. Also, I miss having discussions with other paintings conservators, but of course, I keep in touch with my colleagues back in Europe so that helps a lot,” she recalled.

“I’m happy to give more talks,” she concluded.

Readers who would like to find out more about paintings conservation can email her at

Mei Kuan

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