Torbjörn Vejvi

Why is that that when you’re a kid, you can imagine perfect things, buy you can’t make them, and when you’re an adult, you can make perfect things, buy you can’t play with them ? This deep if unlikely question is brought to mind by the work of Torbjörn Vejvi, a twenty-seven-year-old Swedish artist based in Los Angeles.

Vejvi grew up in a remote forest in southern Sweden. One night, his parents took him to the city of Goteborg to see a major theaterr production. Vejvi was entranced, less by the play itself than b the elaborate sets. He began to build little theaters in his bedroom, first writing plays to justify the sets, and finally designing sets that suggested an accompanying narrative.

Emotion and memory being his subject matter, Vejvi has sought out a variety of ways to control and minimize their “chaos” through a balance of “abstraction and realness”, and he mentions a crucial point in his development when he discovered that “space can be not just a volume, but a place of tension, too, and that negative space can be used as a point of contact.” Although known for working small, his newest, larger pieces, such as 10 feet up in the air (1999), an impeccably messy pile of inoperable paper airplanes, are even more impressive, as he seeks to create work that “demands a physical response equal to its cerebral one.”

To that end, Vejvi has recently abandoned found imagery to build an extraordinary series of boxlike sculptures that utilize emotionally charged material in an emblematic way. Too tender and impractical to be architectural models, and to bemused and poignant to qualify as minimalist sculptures, these extremely attenuated memorials to Vejvi’s childhood incorporate simplistic, resonant iconography into optical illusions that simulate the tricky, doomed negotiations between past experience and memory as though art’s rarefied process were a kind of magical force capable of reconciling them.

Like the sublimely nonsensical images in the best of Robert Wilson’s theatre productions, these spare, perfectly symmetrical juxtapositons of emotive signage and suggestively empty space create an atmosphere at once personal and so reduced and essence-free as to seem abstracted from the collective unconscious. As in all of Vejvi’s work, an almost childlike idea of perfection is balanced by a mature acknowledgment of the limitations of materiality, resulting that long to be explored, and which inspire an equivalent longing, even as their configurations signal that impossibility.

Comment expliquer que, étant enfant, on imagine des objets parfaits sans pouvoir les fabriquer, alors que, une fois adulte, on est capable de produire ces objets mais on ne sait plus jouer avec ? Cette question profonde bien qu’improbable a été suscitée par le travail de Torbjörn Vejvi, un artiste suédois de vingt-sept ans qui travaille à Los Angeles.

Vejvi a grandi dans une forêt reculée au sud de la Suède. Un soir, ses parents l’ont emmené à Göteborg pour assister à une grande production théâtrale. Vejvi a été subjugué, moins par la pièce elle-même que par les décors très riches. Il s’est mis à construire des petits théâtres dans sa chambre : d’abord il a écrit des pièces pour animer ces décors, puis il a conçu des scénographies qui en elles-mêmes racontaient des histoires.

Ses thèmes sont les émotions et la mémoire ; Vejvi a mis au jour des manières variées de contrôler et de réduire leur « chaos » grâce à un mélange d’ « abstraction et de réalisme. » La découverte que « l’espace n’est pas réductible à un volume, mais qu’il peut être le lieu d’une tension aussi, que le vide peut être utilisé comme le terrain d’un affrontement » a été décisive pour son travail. En vérité, le trait caractéristique des œuvres de Vejvi est que pour leur donner un sens, il faut porter attention aux vides.  

Dennis Cooper, « Torbjörn Vejvi« , Artforum, November 1999


Early works (1999-2001)

A general view of a 2001 show @ Raucci / Santamaria Gallery in Naples : Awning 2, 2001, fabric-paper, foamcore, wood, 247x101x90 cm + another version of 5 meters up in the air

Tree Box, 2001, cardboard, linen, acrylic paint, 56x51x51 cm

5 meters up in the air, 2001, foamcore, paper, variable dimensions

Boutique, 2000, cardboard,vinyl, 155×67,5×37,5cm

Diamond (Ruby), 2001, wood, fabric, 70x70x72,5 cm

Raucci / Santamaria Gallery, Naples, 2007

“Attic thought” 2005/06 – wood, acrylic paint, iron, fabric, plaster, cardboard, mdf – 150x152x99 cm
“Attic thought” 2005/06 – wood, acrylic paint, iron, fabric, plaster, cardboard, mdf – 150x152x99 cm
« Chamber” 2006 – wood, acrylic paint, enamel, aluminium leaf, collage 32×47,5×40,5 cm
Untitled 2006 – wood, acrylic paint, collage, mdf – 36x26x10,5 cm

Photographic collages (2007+1995+1998)

« Within their shores », South Willard Gallery, Los Angeles, 2018


A review of an exhibition in LA by Dennis Cooper (2000)

Very short interview with T. Vejvi about his 2011 exhibition in Naples :