• Chrissie Calvert

Curve Balls and Image Inspiration

Working with Coconut matt has thrown me a lot of curve balls.


  1. It falls apart quickly

  2. It can't support its own weight until it has been glued together

  3. It can't be primed on a flat surface, or it will stick to it

  4. It is even more thirsty/absorbent than hessian

So, a really unideal surface for creating a traditional painting, but it was a fun to figure out how to work with this material.


The first problem I encountered was how to bind the fibres together, so the fibres wouldn't fall to bits. Firstly I tried lining the floor with masking paper and varnishing the fibres to the paper. This took a week to dry. So I figured I needed to lift it off the floor to help speed up the drying process. Also the masking paper didn't suit the fibre so I decided to switch that out for hessian. I needed to create a raised platform with.a frame that had small points of contact. I had the idea of flipping a desk upside down and then balancing a large frame on it. This seemed to work.


The next problem was that it needed to support its own weight for when it is hung. So I reverted back to PVA, and a layer of hessian to help the fibres bind to something other than themselves. I found this helped make the delicate coconut matt hold together.


Another major curve ball for me has been trying to link my making with contextual intent. In a zoom session with my supervisors lead to the idea of linking up my ideas with my making through storytelling or "what if?" situations similar to Dana Schutz's work. All the imagery in my work lately has been of a dystopian reality. As if I was in the aftermath of an apocalypse, trying to build supports out of what ever I could find to record what was happening around me. The idea of my work having a connection to storytelling has been frequent in my work, but I haven't thought about using the storytelling element to link the materiality side of my practice. Sometimes it just takes someone outside the work to make an observation to make it all make sense.


Here are a couple of fiction series where some of my imagery has come from:


The Expanse book series by James .A. Corey

It's also been made into a TV series which is pretty good, the books are better though.


The imagery I have gained from reading this is earth in the aftermath of large rocks have collided with it. The rocks cause billions to die, the dust and debris from impact cloud the atmosphere and blocks sunlight causing plant life to die. Electricity is down and the surviving people starve. In the book the rocks were thrown intentionally by a group of extremist 'belters' who are the oppressed group in this series, who live in spin stations within the asteroid belt. Although this is unlikely to happen in real life, the idea of an asteroid colliding with earth to cause similar damage is certainly possible and has happened in prehistoric times, exterminating the dinosaurs


Another series which inspires some of the imagery I paint is The Malazan books of the Fallen.

This one is more an epic fantasy where as The Expanse is straight-up Sci-Fi.



This series inspires imagery of ruined ancient lands with layers and layers of civilisations built upon one another after the death of the previous until the land is used up and turned to desert. This series inspires images of old roads and buildings buried beneath the sands, and images of the aftermath of war.


When I make my work, I like to do it all from scratch as if civilisation had collapsed, and I didnt have easy access to pre-made, refined things. Maybe this is where my use of unrefined material and context can meet up and shake hands. Watch this space.

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