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Behind the Scenes: An Interview with Cristina Calvache Q

Hi Cristina! Can you introduce yourself?

Of course! I’m Cristina Calvache, I am a visual artist based in London. I was born in a small village in the South of Spain, and I studied and worked in Granada for 10 years, where I developed my artistic practice and focused on illustration, editorial design, and video art.

I moved to London 2 years ago which has been an interesting experience during this crazy period, quite inspiring though!

How would you describe your art style? Can you describe your artwork in Portmanteau Issue 2?

My personal work is usually focused on the exploration of traditional and archival aesthetics to manipulate and subvert their meanings through contemporary forms. Digital strategy is definitely an influence in my art style as a way of combining different layers and textures, realism with outline or abstract shapes, black and white with primary colours, etc.

My artwork in Portmanteau is an illustration that aims to question the experience of boredom through an etymological analysis in order to play with this term and deconstruct its regular meaning. Every detail of the composition invites you to contemplate, to trace its forms, split the word and find different origins so then, boredom, as we know it, loses its sense.

The early stages of Boredom

Where does your inspiration come from? Can you recommend some artists and their works, or any other relevant cultural references?

The re-interpretation of pre-existing social and cultural artefacts, rituals and behaviours are always recurring elements of inspiration for me, it is a way to create random and experimental narratives. I am always interested in exploring the everyday object as identity of our context and culture, inspired by classic representations from botanical, anatomy, mystical or industrial forms.

Louise Bourgeois was definitely a big influence at the beginning of my practice. Her work is very intimate and activist at the same time, her aesthetic is organic and figurative simultaneously, and, of course, madly surrealistic.

I also need to name two Spanish artists who work within the audiovisual scene in a very powerful and punky way of action: Beatriz Sánchez and María Cañas.

Currently I am very obsessed with “Old World” style, this is how Daniel Martin Díaz, (another of my references) describes his work, including 16th to 19th centuries engravings.

Cotton house

How does your artwork go from a concept to a finished piece? What does that process look like? What is your creative routine?

The work process was actually an intimate practice within the domestic context. It was during the first lockdown in 2020, when boredom, as an emotional state, remained globally in our productive society. I am sure I am not the only one who has thought about this concept during this period. In my case, I wanted to subvert its pejorative meaning and make it valued and ludic.

At the beginning I just wanted to experience the process of composing this word in a large format and to take my time to trace it and fill it. It is ironic and contradictory to void the boredom by drawing “boredom”, so I found it very performative.

Then I thought it would be interesting to decompose the term through an etymological analysis and combine it, as usual, with botanical elements. This time I used my housemate’s plant, a lovely Yucca, as a support of the argument.

That is basically my creative routine in general: analysing objects or situations around me, looking into its different origins, its components and, if I find interesting material, I work on it with contemporary tools.

Things to burn - a mini fan-zine on a matchbox

When I look at ‘Boredom’, I see it almost as a diagram, instructional. How does drawing and words/letters come together in your art style?

I’m glad you say instructional. I love manuals as they are practical; they help, step by step, in an easy, simple and communicative way. Best of all is when you use it for artistic and reflective purposes. You abruptly cancel its functionality and you’re still engaging the reader as they are very narrative. That’s also the reason why my compositions are based on infographic aesthetics.

In ‘Boredom’ the idea was to create a graphic description of its etymology in a creative way. The word is divided in two parts: bore (n.) + -dom (suffix). One of the first meanings of “Bore” that you can find on internet is “perforation”, while “-dom” may come from position, condition, dominion, domain, among others. That was enough information to think about the visual elements and integrate them in such examination. The result is a synergy between letters and image: the images respond to the words and the words refers to the images at the same time, so the letters become part of the formal aspects.

Logical Proverbs (Illustrated Spanish Proverbs)

The way you use colours to make ‘Boredom’ multi-dimensional is very effective. I could look at this piece for hours and still find something new to think about. Can you expand on it’s dimensionality?

In my compositions I tend to use blank background, so the elements are always floating. This is because I want to focus exclusively on the objects and fragments with no context and space around. My purpose it is to take them out of their original context.

At first sight it seems like the illustration is composed in two layers: the word and the image behind. But there are different factors and details that invite the viewer for a thorough contemplation. Choosing only one plain colour per element is a way to generate that multi-dimensional effect, as it is creating different layers at the same image. The combination of different textures is another essential aspect that plays with depth. In the letters there is also a significant size hierarchy; the little definitions are tracing the shapes of the plant in order to provoke a dynamic and engaging reading. And finally, the direction of lines, especially the auger drill, may help with such dimensionality.

Art Banquet Exhibition Poster (detail)

Why do you include the title of your piece in the art itself, and in such a distinctive way?

As I have explained before, the main point was to experience the process of illustrate the word in a large format. I think such word deserved a space of reflection, so it was necessary to include it in order to dominate the centre of the scene: big black gothic letters, almost like a poster design in a classical atmosphere. It does not really matter the interpretation you take, with ‘Boredom’ you can forget about its regular meaning, or you can actually accept it and reflect more about this mental state, any kind of interaction is valid.

Judas Tree

Finally, who are you outside of your art? What is your favourite thing to do when you’re not drawing?

I am a very social person, I like to be close to my friends and family, but I also love to be on my own, consuming art and life music. My favourite thing to do is cycling, getting lost in the city and finding new places.


If you have enjoyed reading this interview, you can find many more interviews with our contributors from Issue 2 on our Word Potion blog page.

Also, you can find Cristina's full work 'Boredom' in Issue 2, which is now available for order! All money earnt from this issue goes towards paying our contributors for their work and supporting the printing of the current issue and future issues. Read our mission statement here.

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