• Chrissie Calvert

Q & A

Updated: Mar 12

What do you do? What sort of things do you make? Or capture? Or select?

I like the feel of texture, the feel of paint on surface and problem solving material problems. creating images through painting on different surfaces is what I'd call my thing.

I enjoy using raw, materials to paint on such as hessian, or layered hessian. I love the texture and challenge of painting on hessian. I feel it adds a whole other layer to images painted on its surface compared to regular canvas. The subtle imperfections of the surface feel relatable and authentic.

How do you make decisions during the process of your work? How and why do you select the materials, techniques, themes that you do?

I try to let the materials influence the evolution of my work. I start with an image in my mind. This image is usually a figment of a story, imagined or read somewhere or simply taken from parts of my surroundings I find interesting. Usually the image evolves into an ever growing story in my mind. I like to let the image evolve as I paint, letting my subconscious change the story as I go. Allowing the subconscious to inform my decisions allows for unexpected outcomes. I see my process as a push and pull between my subconscious and the materials for the end goal of painting an image on a surface.

What are you valuing in the work?

I value the crafting side of making, and the skill learned over time to control the outcome of making. I love a good challenge, and I find the idea of solving the problems I encounter with material very rewarding. This may be the reason I am drawn to painting on tricky surfaces like hessian.

What are your sources or inspirations for images or forms used?

Ideas, daydreaming and real world problems all impact my decisions to paint. For example, I have always been fascinated with humanity, time, patterns which echo throughout all levels of the universe along with peoples connections with these things. Our brains seem to always look for patterns in chaos. The patterns I see often serve as inspiration for a starting point of a painting. Stories themselves are like explanations of social patterns in a way. Especially mythology and legend. So, there isn't one main place I get my images and forms from, but what they all have in common is that they evolve and change depending on the surface I paint on and the paint I use. This is what I mean when I talk about the push and pull of. the materials I use in my work.

What are you trying to say in the work?

I think that changes with each body of work I make. In a Utopic world my work would remind us all that we are all still animals, even while we live in our house and wear our fancy clothes. That all our concerns and worries are small against the vastness of the universe. That we are just coagulated knots of matter, reacting to stimuli. That all of this tribalism, cataloging and division, (which seems to be as common in modern times as it was in ancient times), is unnecessary. I know this is a tall ask of any artwork, and I know realistically people are not going to get that from viewing my work. It is more that this idea is in the back of my mind when I create, versus actually thinking the work would illicit much change.

How is the way you are saying it, with the materials, techniques and themes, the best for the idea you want to present?

The thing is, I am not sure it is the best way of communicating my ideas. It may be the best so far. I want my work to give off a playful aura. I don't want it to be over refined, as sometimes over thought work can feel stiff. I feel I can cultivate the playful aura I enjoy so much through painting. I think it is important to mention here my love of storytelling. Storytelling has always been a part of making art for me. This is possibly part of my obsession with the act of painting. Images are an excellent way to communicate storylines. Without words, they leave a lot up to the viewer. The idea of sharing my view of the word through story is what appeals to me about painting so much.

What is it you’ve been trying to do to make the work relevant in relation to ideas, cultural circumstances or contemporary issues?

The choice of my materials, specifically affordable materials, I think relates back to the chaos that is the global pandemic and how that has changed the landscape of the world. Availability and affordability of certain materials has been hectic. Shelves in stores have been empty, there have been major delays for builders getting gib, for painters getting oil based products and probably many more industries have bee effected in ways I am unaware of. All the materials I have been using can be easily found anywhere, ( (hessian, PVA, newsprint, house paint). I think by using those easy access materials, my work becomes relevant, or at least relatable. Also creating a new surface out of these everyday materials bring my paintings in to the contemporary arena. Theres been a lot of work done about makes interesting surfaces/objects, and separately interesting paintings; but I want to making interesting paintings on interesting surfaces. I want to connect a hand made object to a hand crafted image because I think by doing that, my work gains a specific aura of humanity that machine made, or mass made items do not have.

I created a mini mind map below to illustrate how I see my contextual interests linking with my artist practice.

How does your current work relate to your previous work?

Throughout the course of my undergrad, the ideas present in my practice have piggy-backed off one another. I think the subconscious played a more important role in my practice through that time, and now, my practice is moving more to a critique of the human condition, through storytelling with imagery.

The evolution of my ideas:

-Subconscious's reaction to music

-Subconscious vs Existentialism

-Existentialism in Myth

-Myth in relation to Human Evolution

-The human condition through story

Who are the writers on these subjects? What specifically have they said, which motivates your own thinking for your work potentially?

Writers and thinkers in my area of interest

-Satre, "“I am alone in the midst of these happy, reasonable voices. All these creatures spend their time explaining, realizing happily that they agree with each other. In Heaven's name, why is it so important to think the same things all together. ”

-Jack Kerouac, “I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don't worry. It's all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don't know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It's a dream already ended. There's nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.”

-William S Burroughs, “Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact. ”

-Joe Rogan, "We are not our ideas."

-Jorden Peterson, “When you have something to say, silence is a lie.”

-Elon Musk, "When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour"

-Duncan Trussel, "If you can forgive yourself then you will no longer see the reflection of your own internal judgement in the faces of the people around you."

I find these thinkers fascinating. The zen dreamer Jack Kerouc. The comic and political commentator Joe Rogan. The controversial Jorden Peterson. The psychedelic Duncan Trussel. It's not that I agree with everything any of them say, but more that I find each of their ways of thinking interesting. The thoughts and questions I gather from these people plant the seeds for stories and images I want to communicate through painting. The ancient feeling that painting and storytelling have give them a weight and history which new media don't seem to have as much of, in my point of view.

Is your field an established one or did you have to invent it? What histories are you contributing to?

Hessian has been a part of many art practices. Painters like Toni Fomison and more recently Imogen Taylor use the material. Imogen uses it for its texture, which I can relate to. In a way I think that using hessian is similar to the reasons that Frances Bacon painted on the back of his canvasses, it's for the bite. It's all about the excitement of painting on something which fights back. Painting itself is an established field, it is as ancient as we are. I love thinking about how humans have been painting for thousands of years, and yet we still haven't run out of avenues to explore.


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