make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend


The lyrical union between colour and form defines Jan Kaláb’s art practice

Czech contemporary artist Jan Kaláb creates abstract artworks that can be inferred as two-dimensional sculptures or three-dimensional paintings.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Jul 22, 2023

To any artist, the conceptual consumption of creative thought is followed by lending it a tangible form and shape in a colour palette—be it muted or otherwise. The artistic oeuvre of Czech contemporary artist Jan Kaláb is replete with abstract art steeped in a plethora of mediums and techniques. Inspired by the bountiful nature, the artist's paintings lie on the border of sculpture: they open the window to see the unseen. The spectrum of sizes available in his practice resonates with variable dimensions in which nature speaks to us irrespective of size and shape. Yet, it is a sense of déjà vu sans complete replication of what has been witnessed by the trained eye.

Zone of Mystery, Orleans, 2021 | Jan Kaláb| STIRworld
Zone of Mystery, Orleans, 2021 Image: Courtesy of Jan Kaláb studio

Before establishing himself as a contemporary artist, he was a founding member of 'Cakes' – a pioneer of the underground graffiti art scene. Alongside members of his iconic crew 'DSK', they painted the streets with satirical and topical art. Having cityscape as a canvas once, Kaláb now creates 3D graffiti, light suspended installations, animated NFTs, paintings, and sculptures. Nonetheless, the finesse required to make graffiti is translated into Kaláb’s current-day practice as well. As a visual artist whose sources of inspiration are “inexhaustible”, even if he does not practise graffiti anymore, it has undeniably influenced his artistic direction and working habits. The five salient learnings from the subversive visual art practice—commitment, technique, style, respect and courage—find a home in his installation works.

Cosmos, 2015, fibreglass resin | Jan Kaláb | STIRworld
Cosmos, 2015, fibreglass resin Image: Jan Kaláb

The lyrical flow in the suspended works is the result of a culmination of painting with acrylic on organic-shaped frames made in his studio. The light-suspended installations oversee the sculptures made of materials including wood, resin, or bronze that offer a unique face to his practice. Since his practice involves both painting and sculpture, it comes across as an intriguing enquiry whether the two forms inform each other or stand unique. In an interview with STIR, he confirms, “My paintings are part sculptures and my sculptures are part paintings. Both techniques complement each other.” If the artist’s mind hovers over an abstract idea that commands a description, the possibilities of deploying different techniques are plenty. “If you really want to come to the essence of it in your art piece, the outcome will never be the same. For example, in the idea of Round, you draw a circle. If you want to make a sculpture it has to become a sphere. If you do a video, it has to be something spinning. Each technique gives a different shape to your idea,” explains Kaláb.

Anatomy of Rainbow,Bologna, 2022 | Jan Kaláb| STIRworld
Anatomy of Rainbow, Bologna, 2022 Image: Courtesy of Jan Kaláb studio

The work Cosmos comes closest to encapsulating his idea of drawing inspiration from nature. The most universal and perfect shape is a circle - a sphere. A series of questions set forth this installation into motion: How do spheres multiply? What if one grows from another? What would it look like? He imagines a sphere opening up a hole and from there comes another sphere and from there another. Since these spheres represent planets to him, he also calls these sculptures Mechanical Planets. “So the composition of these painted spheres," Kaláb adds, "are something between a strange wildflower, joint machine or a chain of planets. Something that grows in any direction”.

Blue Horizon, Bluerider gallery, Taipei, 2023 | Jan Kaláb| STIRworld
Blue Horizon at Bluerider gallery, Taipei, 2023 Image: Courtesy of Bluerider gallery

Kaláb is currently having a solo show titled Blue Horizon at the Bluerider Art Gallery in Taipei. After his first solo exhibition in Asia with Bluerider ART in 2018, he returns to the art gallery with a new series of works. Unlike the bold set of colours dominant in his body of work, Kaláb creates a “visual tension” as it paves out the subtle difference rather than the harmony of the colours. The artworks such as Vibrating Turquoise Square are rooted in evoking an illusion of the graduation of colour stripes, where “perspective is created by receding the silhouette into the dark tones”. For this display, Kaláb has his colour gradient made out of a paintbrush and spray gun. To mention, the canvases Melting Purple Ellipse 0123 and Bracing Embrace 0123 oversee the coming together of these two gradients “where one shape flows over the other”.

Jan Kaláb at work, 2023 | Jan Kaláb | STIRworld
Jan Kaláb at work, 2023 Image: Petr Hricko

The collective energy to both lead and produce is central to Kaláb's work, which was also given a face in the form of the cultural space Trafačka in Prague. The co-creator of this dynamic place, from its establishment in 2006 to its closure in 2015, held close to 160 exhibitions. Later in the year, his works were seen in another solo show Beyond the Atolls at the Regina Art Gallery, Seoul, and a duo show The Perfect Storm with Katrin Fridriks, BC Gallery, Basel. The artist is hopeful that the viewers’ experience around his works is akin to listening to a song that one adores. “I intend to describe beauty in different forms. I would be very happy if someone who doesn’t look deep into my work finds something for himself. And even when there is an art expert who expects much more from an art piece could find it there as well,” concludes Kaláb.

Jan Kaláb in studio Video: Tomas Fiala

What do you think?

About Author


see more articles

make your fridays matter

This site uses cookies to offer you an improved and personalised experience. If you continue to browse, we will assume your consent for the same.