Working in a variety of media, including painting, video and drawing, Friedrich Kunath commonly uses text to accompany an image. Kunath explores universal themes of disenchantment, love, desire, vulnerability, hope and despair in works that are often humorous, despite their pathos. ‘If you leave me - can I come too’, bears the legend in one painting. He frequently appropriates elements of popular culture - the title of a song for example - making his explorations of human situation all the more pertinent.
The basic need for human contact forms the subject for several of Kunath’s video works. In After a While you Know the Style 2000 the artist roamed the streets of Hamburg laden with a heavy duffle bag falling hard onto the pavement in front of passers-by. I Am Not Patrick Swayze 2001 saw the artist persistently trying to climb the trees in a park, repeatedly falling out of them, and sprawling on the ground beneath. Those that witnessed the escapades in both works, which could have come from the archives of the Candid Camera television show, either rush to his aid or scurry away without a word.
An edge of optimism is always present in Kunath’s work, although it is often subtly undermined. For one exhibition the artist made a large work on black paper with a quotation from Thomas Edison: ‘I have not failed, I just found 10,000 ways that don’t work’. This contradiction was further explored in a sculpture placed beneath it bearing the words ‘What happens when you try to fail and then succeed?’. Irony and ambiguity are again found in a photograph Kunath has appropriated of a plane taking off into the sunset. Written along the fuselage the words ‘Your Problems’ lead the viewer to imagine they are jetting off to an exotic location leaving their troubles far behind. However, as the viewpoint reveals, in reality we simply take them with us.
Friedrich Kunath was born in Chemnitz in 1974 and in 2001 was awarded the Peter Mertes Stipend at the Kunstverein Bonn. His recent solo exhibitions include Blum & Poe, Los Angeles (2004), The Bakery at Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam (2003), BQ, Cologne (2002) and The Modern Institute, Glasgow (2000).