Matt Calvert is a Tasmanian sculptor who has produced a broad body of work that is both unique and instantly recognisable to those familiar with his practice. Calvert was born in Smithton, Tasmania, and originally studied a Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) at the University of Tasmania, before completing a Master of Art at Goldsmiths College, University of London. While becoming increasingly recognised for his public art commissions of varying scales, Calvert also produces smaller scale works such as the Too Strange series, of which four pieces were acquired for the DCC Permanent Collection in 2005.
The distinctiveness of Calvert’s work can be attributed to his choice of the unusual material of shattered glass, and his recurring use of a small collection of symbols now iconic to his work. Calvert has used recycled toughened glass as the primary material for works of a range of scales throughout his practice, after initially being exposed to the idea while undertaking a residency in Japan. His forms are most commonly reminiscent of endearing small animals and curious figures of children, each evoking a sense of familiarity, nostalgia and a degree of unease.
These seemingly contradictory responses are reflective of aspects of Calvert’s past that have played a pivotal role in his artistic development. The loss of his father in a car accident when Calvert was seven years old has become a governing influence on his art making, in which both the process and the works produced embody contemplation. Working from his Southern Tasmanian Glazier’s Bay studio, Calvert’s process comprises a ‘cold fusion, flat mould lamination technique’ as part of a meticulous process used to revive these glass fragments. Through the repetitive process of building each layer, Calvert inevitably thinks about the loss of his father, his relationship with his own son, and the circumstances leading to his possession of these particular pieces of glass. While the shattered glass used in these works clearly alludes to the accident, other less obvious references also refer to Calvert’s past, such as the child’s figures used in numerous works being drawn from the 1950s ‘I Spy Manual’ owned by the artist’s father as a child.
The whimsical creatures of Too Strange, which include a duck, a gerbil and a squirrel, are made from smashed toughened-glass doors, while in other works Calvert has used glass from reflector lenses collected from car wrecks. Too Strange, like many of Calvert’s works, is both playfully nostalgic and unsettling. These creatures evoke the cute and cuddly; their texture at a distance could almost be mistaken for foam, yet the shards of glass which merge to form these sculptures are both seductive and dangerous, drawing these seemingly innocuous creatures into the realm of the slightly more sinister. However, the danger posed by the glass fragments is again contradicted by the delicateness of these forms, which appear as though they could be re-dispersed at any moment. Too Strange, like Calvert’s practice more broadly, finds strength in the fragile, the reflective and the quietly nostalgic.
-Erin Wilson, Curator of Collections