The Unsettling Art of Gottfried Helnwein
A Brief Look at The Austrian Master of Darkness
Many people imagine art that is full of blinding colour, vivid cartoonish characters and fun frantic action, others however see the opposite. When people go to galleries they often gravitate towards the work of the most famous artist, the most romantically depicted natural scene or the most beautifully rendered faces. This aesthetically pleasing and fun side of art is one which attracts many, both artists and observers, but there is a different, much darker side that is equally important – this is where Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein calls home.Renowned worldwide for his thought provoking, controversial and frankly disturbing imagery, Helnwein is now a go to for anyone who wants to expose the bleaker side of humanity. Born into a country recently stricken by the horrors of World War II, the shadowy nature, trauma and imagery that the Nazis brought on seem to have never left the back of this artists mind. To this day Helnwein continues to redirect our attention to conflict, fear and the unknown entities that lurk in the back of human consciousness.His work not only spans many years but also a great deal of mediums as this master of the visual arts brings his trademark style to the canvas, the television screen and the stage. His early work immedietly set him on the path he would continue as he created a collection of photorealistic watercolours all featuring damaged children as the subject matter. These large and immediately engaging pieces showed children in all manner of distress, imagery which straight away strikes a chord with our humanity. By using children here, he exploits our vulnerability, as we can’t help but associate them with innocence, powerlessness and a want to protect them. This ability to see what others would simply showcase as beauty and convert it into a desolate feeling of sadness is exactly the kind of emotional witchcraft Helnwein concocts.
Helnwein isn’t stuck in the past entirely however, he has brought great perspective to modern media too. In the Dark Side of Playland Exhibit he contributed work that showed pop culture characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck through an eerie perspective. Probably more well-known however is his work for musicians. Working with German Industrial Metal icons Rammstein he did some photography work with the band that was used for promotional material as well as contributing to their visually unsettling album cover for Sehnsucht. He also has a great relationship with Brian Warner better known as goth-rocker Marilyn Manson. Working on music videos and designing costumes for his work on several occasions.