Portraits in large format

In the Luxembourg town of Vianden, Kärcher has joined forces with the artist Klaus Dauven, the energy company Société Electrique de l'Our (SEO) and the Viart Vianden art association to create a very special work of art. A so-called reverse graffiti has been created on the 100-meter-wide and 30-meter-high surface of the dam wall at the Lohmühle.

Reverse Graffiti by Kärcher and Klaus Dauven in Luxembourg

How the artwork was created

By selectively removing dirt with a high-pressure cleaner, a drawing was created from the contrast between the cleaned and uncleaned surfaces. The reverse graffiti shows expressive portraits of workers involved in the construction of the power plant and the dam. To place the drawing on the dam, industrial climbers rappelled down from the crown and placed approximately 1,000 biomarkers on the patinated surface. They were assisted by surveyors who used laser technology to mark the appropriate locations on the wall from the ground. Once all the adhesive dots had been applied, the climbers used high-pressure cleaners to work out the motif from the dirt, consisting of moss, lichen and fungal growth, according to the "paint by numbers" principle. In a first step, the contours were drawn, and in a second step, the larger areas were cleaned.
During the work, particular importance was attached to a sustainable approach: The water for the high-pressure cleaners was taken directly from the reservoir and the electricity came from SEO's pumped storage power plant. In addition, no cleaning agents of any kind were used. The drawing took a total of two weeks to complete. Three cold-water high-pressure cleaners, three industrial climbers, several Kärcher employees and the artist himself were deployed.

Climbers put the reverse graffiti on the dam.
Klaus Dauven
„I wanted to create with the drawing a tribute to the workers who built the dam. The motif joins my portraits, as I have already created them in Bamberg or in the southern French port town of Sète. In contrast to the depictions of flowers, trees or animals on other dams, which are located in the middle of nature, human faces fit better here, because with the town of Vianden an urban space adjoins.“
Klaus Dauven, Artist

Kärcher and Klaus Dauven have been collaborating on reverse graffiti on dams since 2007. In addition to the recent work in Luxembourg, drawings on dams have already been created in Germany, Japan, Korea and France. The work on the Vianden dam is the first drawing on a dam to date that features portraits.

Klaus Dauven was born in Düren on June 6, 1966. He studied at the art academies in Düsseldorf, Münster and Aix-en-Provence, his main focus from the beginning was on drawings. In 1997 he discovered the technique of "reverse graffiti", in which he creates drawings with a vacuum cleaner or a high-pressure cleaner by removing patina. Since then he has worked intensively on this subject. His best-known and most ambitious works include drawings on dam walls in Germany, Japan and South Korea. In France in 2018, he drew the work "Les Gens" on the breakwater of the port of Sète.

Société Électrique de l'Our, or SEO, operates the Vianden pumped storage power plant. In addition, SEO operates run-of-river power plants and wind farms via subsidiaries. The Luxembourg state and the German energy supply group RWE Generation are the largest shareholders in SEO, each holding 40.43 %.

ViArt is a non-profit organization that promotes art in Vianden. The organization is run on a voluntary basis by local artists* and cultural workers. For 10 years, ViArt has organized the KonschTour, a walking tour to discover art in local studios and exhibition spaces through the Our Valley. This year, for its anniversary, the KonschTour has been further developed as an art festival. In addition to the exhibitions, which will be shown at Whitsun by 80 national and international artists* at 30 exhibition sites, this year there will also be workshops, music performances, dance performances and street art. The project at the dam wall was created on the initiative of ViArt for the 10th edition of the KonschTour.

A high-pressure washer is used to create the portraits.

In the first step the contours of the portraits were drawn, in the second (here in the picture) the drawn areas were cleaned.

Klaus Dauven rappels down to apply the reverse graffiti.

The artist, along with the three industrial climbers, rappelled down from the top of the dam equipped with high-pressure lances and cleaned the drawing out of the patinated surface.

The dam at the Lohmühle in Vianden, Luxembourg.

All facts at a glance

Country: Luxembourg
Place: Vianden

Type of dirt: moss, lichen, fungi, bacteria
Cleaning technology: Cold water high pressure cleaner

Realization: May 2023