Gottfried Helnwein is an Irish-Austrian installer, performance artist, painter, fine artist and photographer. Helnwein has also worked as a draftsman, sculptor and muralist. He works under many approaches and life for him is too diverse. He studied in Vienna at the University of Visual Art. There he was given the prize of master-class.
His work as far as art is concerned, consists of hyper realistic pieces made using watercolors – depicting mistreated and wounded children, also performances at public places. Helnwein primarily focuses on political and historical issues as well as on sociological and psychological anxiety. Due to this, there is often a sense of controversy and confrontation in his work.
Conditions of humans is a topic that has emerged and sustained in all his works. His art is dominated by images of emotionally and physically wounded children. In 2004, Helwein’s work, The Child, was exhibited at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor organized by San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museums and the show attracted more than 120,000 visitors. This exhibition was quoted as one of the most significant one of a modern artist by the San Francisco Chronicle. Steven Winn described Helnwein’s work as portraying sexuality, innocence, self-possession, victimization – all that probes the subconscious mind. Director at Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Harry S. Parker explained in response to the exhibition that Helnwein’s work encompasses all those things that assault children’s virtue, such as poverty, war and sexual abuse. The curator of the show, Robert Flynn Johnson collected stimulating works by Helnwein and provided a written insight on his artistic approach and work. The Child included drawings, photographs and paintings by Helnwein.
Another element seen in his work is comics. Since his childhood, he has seen that the animated life overshadows the real life of children. Cartoons act as an escape for children even when the most difficult times surround them, animations bring a smile and simulate interest and enjoyment. His style of painting follows legacy of expressionism from Germany and also incorporates American popular culture.
While switching residence between Ireland and Los Angeles, Gottfried Helnwein took pictures of Rolling Stones. He also did journalistic photography for magazine covers of Time, and Rolling Stone. For Time magazine, he photographed John F. Kennedy for the front cover on the president’s 20th anniversary of assassination. He also shot a self-portrait in 1982 for Blackout, an album cover for Scorpions. Moreover, Andy Warhol and William Burroughs have also posed for him, as well as Rammstein, a metal music group. Some of Helnwein’s work of arts appeared on Michael Jackson‘s cover for History, his album.
The subjects of Gottfried Helnwein’s portrait work include Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Muhammad Ali, Che Guevara, Arthur Rimbaud, Jean Genet, Bruce Lee, Marlon Brando, Patti Smith, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, Don van Fleet, Frank Zappa, Lou Reed, Sid Vicious, and Keith Richards. All these personalities belong to different fields like music, literature, sports, politics and film.
Some of Helnwein’s photographic works include The Last Child, 2008; Modern Sleep, 2004 to 2006; Ninth November Night, 1988; Poems; Black Mirror (II), 1987; Angel Sleeping, 1999; Der Untermensch, 1986; The Golden Age I, II and III, 2003; Faces, 1982; and several more.
His work has been displayed in many locations including galleries, museums and public installations. He has been a subject of discussion over print media. His works are available to see free on the internet.