Full title: The search for certainty: The Clifford Possum Project and outcomes from the study of works sourced from a convicted fraudster
One of Australia’s only criminal convictions for art fraud resulting from Regina v O’Loughlin in 2001, identified 22 forged paintings. As a number of these paintings were in Museum collections, they have offered the Clifford Possum Project group the opportunity to carry out extensive studies of their technical and stylistic characteristics. The comparison of fraudulent works with genuine works has demonstrated both the advantages and the difficulties of providing a list of physical or stylistic attributes that characterise an artist’s production over a working lifetime – or even a forger’s catalogue of technique. While certainty of authorship is desirable, it is more often a balance of probabilities that emerges when the results of these studies are applied to an unknown work. The project has grown into a large collection of information and expertise and is increasingly asked to provide clarity on questions of authorship. ‘Schooling our eyes’ has become the Clifford Possum Project credo. It recognises that making meaning out of technical or stylistic studies requires us to educate ourselves in an artist’s whole body of work, and to share within the members of the project group our different ways of seeing.