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Manisha Jothady | Mr. Troberg's Realm Of The In-Between

With Lukas Troberg's artistic origins tracing back to graffiti and Street Art, various signs and typefaces of these genres can be found in his diverse oeuvre which comprises performances and, in particular, objects and in-situ work. In 2008, for instance, the artist covered the toilets of a Vienna-based bar with an all-over structure consisting of graphic forms, limited to their contours and, thus, appearing to be locked into each other. In this free-hand drawing that almost literally seemed to flood the room and all its details, Troberg makes explicit reference to the graffiti techniques of the throw-up. The term "throwing up" as used by sprayers means the fastest possible application of words (tags) in large letters of which only their contours are visible. The intervention therefore evokes a hasty, probably unauthorized charm even though we can see that it has been carried out most diligently, using an almost pattern-like accuracy. "Danube", which was both the title of his work and of the bar, opened the door to a formalistically aesthetic realm of the in-between. All those rules of the game that have been long established in Street Art and in institutional art were completely lifted in this case. This early project already reflects the artist's idea of questioning existing values and systems, which becomes particularly evident in his later works. Always seeking new perspectives and, thereby, allowing unusual glances at what is ordinary, he lets the observers of his work plunge into a world that seems both familiar and alien at the same time. Following this principle, he created a whole range of objects that are based on this duality: Examples thereof are "Amber" (2009) and "Shuttle" (2011) – both of which are handy sculptures, seemingly being assessed for their practical value. But what keeps us from touching them, from spinning and turning them around, from trying to screw them into something? The reason for our respectful and distanced approach to these objects lies in the almost exclusive surface that is the product of Troberg's artistic refinement procedure. With regards to refinement, the artist finds his material on the street, on building sites or other areas through which he strolls. Already back in the 1960s, the Situationists regarded the "dérive", i.e. exploring a city by roaming through its streets, as something productive – a view that places them within proximity of graffiti-sprayers. The Troberg-style of meandering a city's landscape has its roots both in Street Art and in the Situationists' "dérive". This subversive element is thus incorporated in some of his works. An example illustrating this view can be found in his video-performance "kannst stanzen (Forget it)" (2011), in which Troberg stamps the core of an Austrian and a German euro coin, only to incorporate it into the respective other ring. This work can just as well be interpreted in a political way.

In contrast, Troberg seemed to close the circle initiated with "Danube" with his solo exhibition "Sorry", shown at Galerie Michaela Stock in 2012. Working with writings in neon letters that he created from construction site lamps, Troberg highlighted, amongst others, the aspect of the "perfect line" and its hybrid setting between plan and intuition. What appeared to be the product of playful humour, in fact turned out to be the result of meticulous conception and time-intensive production of the work itself. Troberg thus put a focus on the contradiction between the observer's perception and the composition of a work of art.

Whatever form of representation Lukas Troberg adopts, he always makes the observer feel as if they were on an emotional roller-coaster ride between proximity and distance. It is exactly this aspect that adds an almost complete sphere of elusion to his oeuvre. Just as we can never fully and precisely perceive Troberg's work, we cannot predict the form the artist will use next to subvert the systems and conventions of the institutional art scene either. What is certain, though, is the fact that he will subvert them.

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