Pocket Paintings: Jan Kaláb miniaturises his art into cell-phone sized murals


Oftentimes, our moments of rendezvous with art are reserved for galleries, museums and other exhibition spaces. In rare instances, one might even bring an artwork home and preserve its essence in the mundane. But there is always a place to reach or be at to be with art, even if it is one’s living room. Acclaimed Czech artist Jan Kaláb challenges this limitation and asks the audience, what if art could be carried around in pockets?

Kaláb, one of the most notable contemporary artists to come out of the former Czechoslovakia, released a limited collection of miniature paintings—art on the move that slides easily into any pocket. Each hand-painted artwork is a scaled-down replica of the artist’s work. The ensemble, befittingly titled Pocket Paintings, features seven different styles of paintings, each limited to 50 pieces. The technicolour oval canvases don abstract organic lines and vibrant colour palettes, both characteristic of Kaláb’s oeuvre. “I do collections of small paintings affordable for young collectors at the end of every year. This year, I came up with the idea of really small paintings the size of a cell phone—paintings which fit into your hand perfectly,” says Kaláb.

Kaláb was born in 1978 in Czechoslovakia and with a style uniquely his, became one of the country’s most seminal artists. His creative journey can be traced to graffiti art, street art, and mural art, and he is named amongst the founding pioneers of the Prague underground graffiti and street art scene. From animating city streets and slumberous train yards, the artist’s work has evolved into paintings, sculptures, and 3D installations. He has also exhibited in renowned galleries around the world, including New York, Miami, London, Paris, Shanghai, and Rio de Janeiro.

Kaláb aims to come up with new ideas for a mini-series every year; this year he decided to recreate his paintings in the smallest size yet. During the summer, the artist played with various sizes to find the best one, aiming to do miniature avatars of his significant paintings in bigger sizes. “I did seven different images, one for every day of the week and each has a limited edition of 50 pieces. I called them pocket paintings because I find it fun. Of course it is not meant to really wear it in your pocket, but just the fact it is possible gives a different perspective to the piece. All of them are hand painted,” Kaláb explains. As intriguing as these vivid pieces look in a person’s palm or pocket, they maintain their allure even when hung on a big wall.

The Czech visual artist is not bound by dimensions when it comes to art; he breathes life into art in any size and form—each with its challenges. Shedding light upon the making of Pocket Paintings, Kaláb mentions, “Another aspect of this series is ecology, because we used the remains of the canvas and wood from the creation of the bigger paintings which accumulated over the years.” Despite variation in scales, the identity of his paintings remains constant; his visual art with shape and colour as protagonists stumble towards a sculptural language. This distinctive collision of sculpture art, painting and 3D graffiti renders a new dimension in the Pocket Paintings—a sense of vague familiarity that Kaláb wishes to resonate with his audience.

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