Selected works by Friedrich Kunath

Friedrich Kunath
First Life Takes Time then Time Takes Life


Seven c-prints

Overall size 41.6 x 414 cm

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.

Friedrich Kunath


Leather, crayon on canvas, watercolour on paper, watercolour on canvas,

280 x 202 cm

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.

Friedrich Kunath
Untitled (detail)


Screenprint on wood, 13 lamps, and 7 clay figures

173 x 199.5 x 199.5 cm

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.

Friedrich Kunath


Gouache, watercolour, varnish on canvas

200 x 280 cm

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.’



Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me. This statement of autobiographical fact also happens to be the title of The Smiths' last single, released during their acrimonious split in 1987 - a maudlin cry for an end to loneliness. Like the mournful one-eyed giant gazing longingly at the sleeping nymph in Odilon Redon is painting The Cyclops (1898-1900), the song speaks of unrequited desire. Redon is dreamy vision is scumbled and hazy, as if unable to focus or put a finger on just what the poor beast feels. The song is generalisms and sense of resignation - the story is old, I know, but it goes on - are just as vague. Both hint at the desire for an ideal rather than a specific individual. It's about knowing that you need something, but not knowing exactly what form that something might take. A soundtrack of love, hope, isolation and despair.

Ninety-nine percent of all pop songs are about love and, perhaps, so too is most art - in as much as it deals with our individual relationships to each other and to the world. No matter how deep the terms of discussion are couched in abstruse philosophies or socio-political histories, a lot boils down to economies of exchange: the fundamentals of how we see each other, how our bodies co-exist with one another and the objects around us. Whether it's a lover you are seeking or God, what's engaging you is essentially the impulse to define the ineffable. In recognizing the need for something to fill the gaps left by an absence of religion or of adequate scientific explanation, we cry out for a phenomenological alleviation of loneliness. As Glen Campbell sang in Wichita Lineman (1968): I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time.

Culture is a lonely hearts club band of poetry and song. Through a kind of conditioned empathy I can relate my specific experiences to a film or piece of music just as easily as you can relate to precisely the same film or piece of music with your own emotional knowledge. The artist Friedrich Kunath might call this togetherness. It's a word that crops up from time to time in the drawings, prints and videos he makes. It could be referring to the melancholic thread that binds his works. Perhaps it's a balanced state of mind - about being a together kind of person. Most likely, it refers to an ideal - a eudemonic, balanced relationship and sense of belonging.