Gottfried Helnwein blows me away. An oil painter in photorealism, he strikes to a core. The technical and conceptual brilliance of his work is utterly married together and phenomenal. When I think of the word ‘inspiration’ I tend to think of other words like ‘upbeat, positive, encouraging, adventurous…’ but examining the character of his aesthetic I am inspired to get pretty damn real about life, like let’s not waste time here. He hits me hard. I love it.
Now, I have stared at Picasso’s Guernica, 1937 http://www.pablopicasso.org/guernica.jsp and Ruben’s Massacre of the Innocents, 1612 http://artmatters.ca/wp/tag/massacre-of-the-innocents/ and wept about our beastliness, and inhumanity. No joke, those works are powerful. This is different. The feeling of goose bumps move from skin to way way way back inside me and scorches the tips of what I also know to be human: anxiety, physical suffering, fear, victimization. Helnwein brings this kind of emotional reality into a concrete…WOW.
Helwein’s creative gaze captures innocence, loss, powerlessness, unrest, the ‘un-protected’ by forces of safety. When I first saw his work I immediately thought of my daughter. So right there, my insides were turned. It is like I can see something in the young girl from my own body, to the effect of ‘ surrender to what I can’t control, a kind of abandonment of will and maybe something will keep me alive’ kind of feeling. I began to probe that maybe the instinct to survive comes in the exact moment after the loss, or victimized feeling that washes over the body?…whatever that feeling is…HOLY CR&^%&!
Inexplicable torture – Is this to feel? to penetrate numbness? Our culture does a very good job at keeping us trapped in a kind of delirium. Contemporary artist Paul McCarthy defines that for us in his filmic installations. The psychological terror here scares the heck out of me when these expressions stare back. It’s pretty darn literal.
The purity and then it leaves…
When I see and feel this image I think of- “If I close my eyes maybe the pain will all go away. I just want to not see for a sec…” and ” maybe I can wish for help to come …”
A dark dark presence to reckon with and at the same time there might be a way out…?
Gotta take a breath here. Whoosh!
Below is to show you the ‘average’ scale of his work. Pretty flippin’ large.
The artist himself. He is Austrian born, now an Irish citizen, studios in Los Angeles and Ireland, and lives in a castle with his large family. His models are family members. He paints, does costume and theater design, installation works, performance, a draftsman…
He is more than goth, he is Gothic.