20 November 2014 – 31 January 2015
White Cube Hong Kong
‘paintings are places where the world ends...’
White Cube Hong Kong presented an exhibition by Los Angeles based German artist Friedrich Kunath. Kunath’s work, which covers a range of mediums including drawing, painting, sculpture, installation and photography, presents an altered reality whose subject matter taps into universal and existential concerns. For this exhibition Kunath pushed his personal vision even further, producing a series of paintings that explore the limits and extent of an inner, psychic landscape whose kaleidoscopic and fragmented scenes seem to uncannily cohere.
In these paintings, which combine moribund humour, pathos and an overt, pop-like sentimentality, an eclectic range of characters, both animal and human, borrowed or invented, are set amid highly romantic landscapes. Deep orange and burgundy sunsets shine over ocean horizons or an infinite vista of mountains and lakes recede in shades of grey, creating densely layered dreamscapes that seem to pictorialise images from the deep recesses of imagination. Kunath borrows fluidly from across all areas of culture and employs various painterly styles, sometimes highly detailed and proficient in the manner of classical oil painting, at other times illustrative and cartoon-like, using pencil outline or even silkscreen printing to add a character to the canvas. This collage-type approach condenses different pictorial realities into one picture plane, an effect that is enhanced by the abrupt changes of style and scale. In these works Kunath has also occasionally added text: like scrawls of emotive outpouring which heighten the work's sense of psychotic, narrative urgency.
Kunath’s series of characters, while individual, are also identifiable as ‘types’, often playing out our fundamental concerns: desire, loneliness, anxiety, sadness, fantasy and ennui in their own chaotic landscape. Moreover, his repertoire of cartoon imagery reminds us of the infantalising role of popular culture where the pop-cultural icons of childhood become perpetual and sinister, ingraining themselves forever as strange visual landmarks in our memory. Despite this, Kunath's work is enjoyably comedic: displaying a hopeful and resilient side to human nature that is allusive and free of irony. He has explained that he always tries to ‘paint the inside of things... my own private and distorted equilibrium... a place where agitation and consolation materializes and recreates itself into a meta landscape’. A kind of catch-all vision that aims ‘at nothing else than the universe, wherever that may be’.