Honza "Point" Kalab - a street artist in more ways than one

Photo: www.onepoint.cz

The independent street artist Honza Kalab, who goes by the name of Point, has put up scores of sculptures on buildings around Prague. His pieces, made from gypsum, come in various colours but take the same form, with the letters of his pseudonym arranged to look like a little dragon. Honza Kalab's studio is a cold, disused electricity transformer station in Prague 9. When we met there, I began by asking how many of his sculptures he has put up in the capital?

"Almost 200. Three years ago I put up the first 100. Last year I created a new form and I also put up 100 pieces."

They all say the name Point?

"I think it's not that important that you have to read the name Point in it, because it's inside. But it's more about: you walk through Prague, you look at the buildings, and suddenly you see something you didn't expect and you don't know what it is.

"You start to think, what could it be? Your imagination begins to create metaphors, or I don't know...you just start to think and I think the confrontation and reaction of the viewer begins, and that's what's most important."

In this building where your studio is there's a lot of graffiti on the walls here, very colourful. Are you formerly a graffiti artist?

"Yes, my roots are based in graffiti - I've been doing graffiti for 13 years. I think my work, if it's sculpture or anything else, still has something from graffiti, from the ideology."

What places in Prague can people see your Point statues, what locations are they to be found at?

"It was almost everywhere around the open centre - downtown, the bigger downtown. But they disappeared a lot...but you can still find some of them, if you look properly. It's hard to say where because they were everywhere...you can find them here or there, it's hard to say."

How come they disappeared?

"I think somebody stole them, stole one...other buildings were renovated or reconstructed so they took them down. Or the wind blows too hard..."

When you say people stole them, do you mean people collected them and took them home put them in their bedrooms?

"I think it happened, but I'm not happy about that because I would like to have them in the street, to have it for everybody. If you steal it and put it in your living room, the meaning is different, it changes. It loses life. If it's on a building in the street it lives, and if you steal you have it only for yourself."

These sculptures are I guess about half a metre long, they're made from gypsum - what kind of condition are they in after they've been up in the city centre for, say, a year? Are they dirty, are they damaged?

"I saw some that are two years old and they are pretty damaged. But it depends on the place...I think after one year they look pretty well - it's not as bad as you would expect."

And are they dirty?

"Not too much. You still see the colours and that's the most important thing. The problem is the material, the gypsum, is not so stable. When the weather changes, when the temperature changes, it affects the gypsum. So I think after a few years they will be really ugly. But after one, two, three years they are still OK."

Just to digress for a minute, I also read that you - as well as doing these sculptures - that you did something where you painted lines on the street.

"They're not lines. When you have a sidewalk and they fix it with concrete and after you have 'maps' on it. I think Prague is a special place for that - you don't have other cities in Europe with such specific sidewalks."

They're all mixed up of different parts and they've been broken up so many times.

"Yes, they were fixed so many times it's incredible. It makes such beautiful pictures, or shapes. So I decided to fill them with different colours - it makes a pretty nice effect, because you don't walk on grey, suddenly you walk on colour..."

On purple, for example?

"On purple, on green, on blue..."

I think I've seen one of these near my house, in Zizkov - I didn't know why it was purple. But now I know.

"Yeah, it was funny, because I did it in a short time, I think in three weeks, I did really a lot of them. People in Prague started to ask themselves, why is it? But nobody figured out that its art.

I didn't know it was art - I just thought it's some new type of concrete or something!

"Other people thought it's a mark of the gas company, where they should dig a hole. It was really funny and it's had a lot of reaction."

Getting back to your Point sculptures, have you ever had any trouble with the police when you've been putting them up around Prague?

"No, because the act takes a couple of seconds. I put up a ladder, step up, put it there and go back. It takes maximum one minute."

Do you ever get people accusing you of vandalism? Nobody asked you to put your art up in Prague, Prague is already beautiful...Do you ever get people saying this isn't welcome, and it's vandalism?

"No. The first reason is they don't have time to ask me, because I'm too fast and when I work I don't talk, I don't wait till somebody comes to me and asks if it is art or if it is a crime...I think it doesn't look so bad."

Finally, perhaps you know the British graffiti artist Banksy. He has now moved into art galleries, he's making millions of dollars. Can you imagine yourself in the future making a lot of money - or even any money - from your Point sculptures?

"Yes, I can imagine that, but that time hasn't come! But I can imagine...of course I would like to earn some money with my work, it's normal."


Photo: www.onepoint.cz