Friedrich Kunath uses a wide range of ubiquitous media to explore themes around the melancholy, existential nature of everyday experience. His drawings, photos, prints and sculptures have an immediate yet quizzical charge, raising questions about the obvious. Kunath has the ability to imbue approachable, ordinary materials with conceptual heft, always lacing his treatment of quotidian pathos with a jester-like humour.
Untitled (2007) builds up an exaggerated, vaudeville-style mask of sadness through parts that make it whole: a bird on a branch, a knotted rainbow, snowy windows, an inverted statue at dusk, branches blowing in the wind, a black giant poodle hanging its head. A symbolic single perfect tear and a lengthy staircase fall from the eyes of this tragicomic blonde harlequin, whose diamonds have been transposed onto his cheeks.
The seven colour photographs comprising First Life Takes Time Then Time Takes Life (2010) show seven frames almost repeating the same still-life composition: a piece of toast leaning on a pineapple-shaped white vase. Gravitas and the art-historical memento mori are referenced and made lighter by the gag inherent in Kunath’s visual pun – the ‘time’ alluded to in the title is illustrated through the noticeable change from frame to frame, showing the slice of bread being ‘overexposed’ and toasted to a cinder.
In the sculpture Untitled, (2007) Kunath teases out ideas of existential anxiety shedding literal light over an appropriated New Yorker cartoon of shipwrecks hiding from their rescuers. The platform on which the scene is being examined is completed by kitschy figurines, including the classical Pierrot. Summing up Kunath’s sad clown approach to art-making are his thoughts on becoming an artist: ‘I can only refer to Werner Herzog, who said that the only artists left are those working in the circus.’