The paintings of German artist Stefan Kurten depict the environments we create in our tenacious attempt to make life perfect.
Chic mid-century homes, picturesque bungalows, meticulously manicured landscapes and resort architecture evidence the dazzling promise of economic prosperity in the post-World War II West. These are bright, clean, thoughtfully-designed places. Safe and happy places. The imagery is fabricated from Kurten's own snapshots of California and Northern Europe or from ubiquitous "shelter porn." The scenes seem to glow with a soft, golden, interior light - an effect achieved through the use of metallic gold pigment in the foundational layers of the paintings - that adds to their sense of harmony and richness.
Kurten's is a perfect world - almost. Beautiful as these images are, they're unsettling - often for no reason you can quite name. Idyllic scenes are rendered uncanny by indeterminate sources of light that cast improbable shadows. Strangely-colored skies threaten an oncoming thunderstorm or recall a light-damaged image from the early days of color photography. Trash collects in the bottom of an empty swimming pool. Walls are defaced with graffiti. Decay, it seems, lies just beneath the surface.