The Illusion of Space

Nothing is quite what it seems in the work of artist Frank Kunert (b. 1963). The German model maker and photographer’s polished, surreal studio-shot images depict settings that are slightly askew. Domestic spaces are inverted somehow, mysteriously emptied of human presence with objects that appear too large or small for the room. In one, a diving board protrudes from an armchair, jutting through a window and out into a horizon of fluffy white clouds. In another, a rocking horse teeters on sky-high ladders, just about to topple over the edge of a brick wall.

The meticulously constructed miniature models that appear in these frames are also on view in Carpe Diem at Stadtmuseum Schleswig. On the surface, the scenarios they reveal appear droll and whimsical, but there is a much darker side simmering beneath. “The desire for consolation or sudden liberation arises precisely when it seems to people that they can’t go on,” Kunert explains. “And, with a certain degree of irony, I try to confront this longing.” A desk that doubles as a bed speaks to the relentless, despondent rat race of modern working life, whilst a balcony that opens out onto a train track alludes to current metal health crises. These scenes are the stuff of dreams, but represent our nightmares. Whilst there is bleakness, there is hope.

Throughout 2022, stories of “quiet quitting” have erupted on social media, as people re-evaluate work and relationships after the Covid-19 lockdowns. This phenomenon provides an antidote to the daily contradictions depicted in Kunert’s images, leading us to the question: what does a successful life look like?

Stadtmuseum Schleswig | From 9 December

All images © Frank Kunert.