An interest in paper as both subject and support plays a central role for a number of fine art and paper conservation staff at Northumbria, including research into paper in relation to performance, indexicality, the archive, semiotics and the expanded field of contemporary drawing; they have worked with major national and international institutions including the Sage, Gateshead; the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford; the V&A, London; BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. A networking group of researchers and subject specialists in UK, Germany, China, Ireland, the Netherlands, India, Japan and Taiwan, has been established.

A number of research “clusters” form the overall research group of PSN:


Drawing practice relating to, and evolving from, themes of embodiment, emphemorality, materiality, ritual, endurance, meditation, satire and physical boundaries, are explored by a number of researchers working with PSN. It is central to the practice of PSN Director Sian Bowen, and to that of colleagues with whom she has worked closely in order to establish and develop the studio = Chris Dorsett, Keith McIntyre, Jane Colbourne and Sandra Johnston. Drawing and site-responsive performance rooted in fine art plays an important role in postgraduate research. Major drawing projects resulting in new constructed narratives have also evolved through collaborations with musicians, dancers and actors.

Fine Art and Paper Conservation

Researchers in fine art and paper conservation identify and investigate areas of common ground on the methods, treatments and theories between the two practices. In addition, Jane Colbourne leads on master classes and seminars for fine art researchers on methods and materials used in Japanese scroll mounting, paper damage and repair, surface preparation and transformative materials such as oils, waxes and natural Japanese dyes. Conservation researchers join fine art seminars and “artist in conversation” sessions in order to gain new perspectives on contemporary visual arts practice. PhD projects have been distinctive in the ways in which they have worked across fine art and paper conservation .(See: People – Brian Fay and Caroline Ali).

Archives and Collection-Holding Institutions

Archives and collection-holding institutions are of key concern to a number of the Fine Art and Conservation researchers attached to PSN and provide the focus for interventions, cross-disciplinary collaborations and practice-led investigations of the plurality of temporal states. A number of major projects including PhD research, have involved the ‘expanded field’ of drawing.

In addition, PSN is continuing to build an archive of European, Japanese, Chinese and Indian handmade papers, whilst Burt Hall (MA in Conservation of Fine Art), holds a number of significant archives including that of Charles Sims. These provide material for both teaching and doctorate projects.


A significant area of research interest is embedded in aesthetic, conceptual and technical differences between Eastern and Western practices of fine art and paper conservation. A number of key researchers in PSN have spent prolonged periods of time living in Japan, India and Taiwan and continue to develop research projects with partners in these countries. In addition, during 2014 a formal agreement for partnership between Northumbria University and National Taiwan University of the Arts was brokered by Chun Chao Chiu, who also carried out research on the current status of handmade paper in Taiwan. In 2016,Sian Bowen, Jane Colbourne and Chun Chau Chiu, travelled to Anhui Province, Southern China, in order to see Xian papermaking at first hand.