Admittedly: At first glance, the uninitiated find it hard to penetrate the meaning behind Frank B. Ehemann’s works of art, with the younger works remaining particularly mysterious. Yet it is worthwhile to adjust one’s senses and enter, for a minute or two, into the world of ambiguity and codification.

The images Ehemann entrusts us with or in some instances even expects us to tolerate can only be comprehended step by step and only upon closer study. Thus at first glance some images may appear downright strident or provoking – for instance, when in one of his works we are invited to look at a naked woman, whose body features several drawers and who, at the same time, holds in her hands a rapier and dressing material.

Previously: His real-life encounters with Salvador Dalí as early as in the 1970s are evident beyond a doubt, even though some symbols painted by Dalí and found also in Ehemann’s oeuvre sometimes appear in an entirely different context.

With 17, says Ehemann, “I stopped photographing beautiful landscapes, mountains and lakes in faraway countries; it all became just too trivial for my taste.”

At first, Frank B. Ehemann worked as a commercial photographer for one of the largest photographic studios in Europe. When he turned 20, he opened his own studio and, highly motivated, embarked on a career of self-employment.

Under the heading “Nothing is impossible”, he set benchmarks in advertising photography, in creating title and spotlight pages for keeping wool woollen and just like new, for chocolate squares and purple cows, white giants ensuring white laundry and generals commanding clean floors, for building society foxes and Frau Antje and her cheese from Holland.

Sometimes he and his two assistants would work for days on end on one picture only. He would expose an 18×24 cm reversal film with up to three large-format cameras at the same time. For this purpose, light, the setting or photomasks were changed even during exposure according to a detailed production schedule in order to achieve the previously imagined and sketched tableau. Today, this at the time enormous effort could be substituted by a few mouse clicks only.

By the time of his 30th birthday and 10-year business anniversary, Frank B. Ehemann had accumulated sufficient capital to cede his photographic studio to a friend and turn his back on commercial photography. His restless spirit, curious about life and eager to take on new challenges, now led him on a fast-paced roller coaster track, at the end of which he suffered an economic and mental break-down. This is why he retreated to his former weekend cottage by the lake, to gather strength, find the way back to himself and regain a balance.

Out here, in this remote location far from any kind of “mainstream”, he was at first tormented by an emotional overload, alternating between moments of utter happiness and deep depression, from which he emerged as an increasingly pensive person. “Many complex thoughts about mankind and life threatened to make my head burst,” says Ehemann. “So I had the vision of creating works of art, which would serve to channel and pool my thoughts and thus possibly relieve my head by absorbing and compacting them like an external hard-disk does for a computer.”

Today, it is quite obvious, that all his accumulated experience has gone into this effort and that, coupled with diligence, technical know-how and know-why, this is what invests his unique works of art with a deeper and multi-layered visual language.

To this end, a painter “simply” expresses his world of ideas and imagination by applying his brush to the canvas. Ehemann, by contrast, uses the camera as his tool of choice in order to emphasise the layer of reality his stories are based on. He abstracts the random instant by removing its habitual context and constantly creates new modes of visualisation through his choice of perspective and technique. In viewing these surreal yet grounded photographs, the artist emerges as a master of experiment – all the more so, as his diversified oeuvre is founded on montage and experimentation with light, is rooted in the past capturing moments in time, historical events, and deals with morale or individual views and emotions. With this eclectic mix, his most intensive works of art courageously achieve a salto mortale between aestheticism and surrealism.

Thus in order to produce his new cycle of works “HUMANITIES”, no effort was considered too great, no journey too far, for staging true stories in a seemingly surreal setting.

Moreover, Ehemann’s perfectionism ignores all obstacles, even when, for instance, his vision requires a human heart fresh from the body, a live Golden Eagle or bow and arrow from the possession of an old native American from the Wild West.

One and a half years of targeted and intensive work went into this cycle alone, resulting in razor sharp, dramatic compositions on large-format canvases measuring by the metre. For the first time ever, Ehemann furnishes these motifs with descriptive three-line verses in a 5-7-5 syllable rhythm emulating the Japanese form of poetry called haiku. These provide the viewer with pointers towards what the artist’s intention of expression may have been, yet without limiting the viewer’s own interpretative endeavours.

Every single detail in Frank B. Ehemann’s mises en scène is well-thought-out, because he wishes to thereby tell us something about human beings and their emotions. Be it the choice of rooms or locations out-of-doors, the manner of lighting or how the protagonists are arranged within the frame: Nothing is accidental – everything is imbued with symbolic significance. The topic governing these images almost always focuses on love, emotional competence, the chasm and ascent, power and impotence.

Frank B. Ehemann lives his works and breathes their stories 20 hours per day and at night he dreams about them. His oeuvre therefore requires to be perceived with leisure, for only then can these works of art be fully unlocked to disclose to the viewer their peculiar secret wealth of meaning. Those viewers taking their time and courageously entering into an intimate dialogue with the work at hand, letting themselves be absorbed by its mises en scène so seemingly rooted in reality and yet at the same time reverberating with surrealism, those will be astonished in discovering the story it tells …