German artist Tobias Kroeger, also known by his moniker “Tobe”, made his career as a successful street artist, but in 2013 he suddenly stopped and turned his attention towards the canvas. What he created is a series of glitchy portraits inspired by his roots in graffiti and a growing concern for our addiction to technology. “Composed of data fragments and machine parts”, his depiction of people is not far from the truth; a portrait of a new generation, living their lives in front of the computer screen.
Kroeger’s paintings are often described as “Graffuturism”: a combination of graffiti in their influence and futurism in their abstraction and dynamism. But the artist primarily sees his work as an exploration, “searching for a contemporary way to paint the people of our century by using elements from fine art and graffiti to create a new, interesting and inspiring imagery. The graphic elements are used as a symbol of unfollowed dreams and heteronomy in our society,” he writes at his website.
Though usually colorful and bright, the concept behind Kroeger’s work is increasingly dark: disturbing elements in the form of bars obscure and penetrate the faces of his subjects, meant to symbolize the manipulative influence of media and society. Newer works also use a numbering system, as if to treat his subjects like products instead of individuals. In Kroeger’s world, we are setting ourselves up for a gloomy, de-humanized future, where if we aren’t careful, technology will lead to the destruction of our individuality.