A Queensland painter is claiming a record for creating the world’s smallest painting on the end of a matchstick, but he will never make it into the Guinness Book of Records.
Artist Wayne Malkin used the wooden end of the match as a tiny canvas, to create an oil painting of Barry Humphries’ alter ego, Dame Edna Everage.
The hand-painted portrait measures 2.3 millimetres by 2.3 millimetres or about the same size as the letter U on a 20-cent piece.
“I was online and saw a news feed about an artist in Cyprus, who was claiming the smallest painting in the world,” Mr Malkin said.
“His painting was 6.9 millimetres by 7.1 millimetres. And I thought, as an artist, that’s a really great challenge to try to beat.”
Mr Malkin said he settled on the end of a matchstick because viewers could easily compare it to other tiny objects.
The Sunshine Coast-based artist said it took two months to paint, far longer than his usual and much larger landscape paintings.
“A lot of that time was spent trying different methods,” he said.
Mr Malkin experimented with using a single brush hair and pinpoint, before switching to the fibre from a bamboo skewer.
“It was the right sort of stiffness and size that I could actually dot paint onto it, and gradually build up in the traditional way with oil paints to form a portrait.”
He said he never considered using artificial means like digital printing to create the image.
“There is a smaller painting around, but it’s done by laser – there’s no paint on it.
“Mine is a painting that is painted exactly the same way as any other traditional painting.”
The artist, who owns a gallery at Montville on the Sunshine Coast hinterland, said he chose Dame Edna as his subject because she has a distinctive face, even in miniature.
“It’s the hair. It’s the glasses,” he explained.
“People look at this painting through the magnifying glass and say I know who that is. That’s Dame Edna.”
Work ruled ‘amazing’ but not a record
Mr Malkin said he had consulted record books, but there were no official records kept on paintings because art was considered too subjective.
“I have been in touch with the Guinness Book of Records and they’ve sent a number of emails back to me,” he said.
The record keepers described it as “truly amazing” but could not publish the painting as an official record.
“It’s not objective. Someone could argue that this tiniest dot of paint is a painting for the smallest painting. And someone could also argue that the longest painting, say, is the stripe on the M1,” the artist said.
“They tried to subcategorise it in some way, but came back to me and said ‘No, it’s just too difficult to do that’.”
But Mr Malkin said after a thorough search of the internet he was confident his painting was the smallest in the world.
Art through a magnifying glass
The micro-art is best viewed in the gallery with the magnifying glass provided, but even then Mr Malkin said about half of his gallery visitors could not seem to see the work.
“The reaction has been a mix,” he confessed.
“The 50 per cent say ‘I can’t see what it is, it’s just too small for me’ and the people that can see it have just gone ‘That is incredible. I’m blown away by it.’ And that’s really satisfying to have people say that.”
Mr Malkin said he used special equipment to see the tiny end of the matchstick as he was painting.
“I have a small hand-held lens, which is more powerful than the display one.”
The artist said he would be willing to lend the work to other galleries, but it would not be for sale.
A small world of art for all
Without a clear ruling from world record keepers, the title of smallest artwork is disputed.
Turkish micro-artist Mesut Kul claimed in 2017 that he had painted on to the world’s smallest canvas — a hair.
He has also used other miniature canvases, including pumpkin seeds and beans.
Another Turkish artist Hasan Kale, who has dubbed himself the ‘Microangelo’, has developed an international following by painting tiny images onto food.
He has recently painted onto pumpkin seeds, grains of rice, peanuts, sugar cubes and strawberry seeds.
Mr Kale has also dabbled in painting onto matches, with portraits of Albert Einstein, composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and artist Salvador Dali onto the heads of matchsticks earlier this year.
When opening his latest micro exhibition in an Ankara shopping centre in June, the micro-artist said he had been working in miniature for more than two decades.
“Everything that we omit, do not recognise and throw out as trash sometimes has become my canvas,” he said.
“I started with the idea of opening new windows with different perspectives and creating a new language in the world.
“It has been 25 years since that day. I am glad that I have done this when I look back.”