Gottfried Helnwein Info

Press and Media

Turun Ylioppilaslehti, Finland – October 9, 1998

one-man show, WA Museum of Art, Finland


by Vesa Kataisto

The eyes are plucked out because they are no longer needed, is the first thought the Gottfried Helnwein exhibition creates. Helnwein's most widely known work is probably the self-portrait made for the 1982 Scorpions record cover. In it recurs the same subject matter which Helnwein had put to use in dozens of works.

Head wrapped in bandages, fork-like pliers tear the eyes, and the mouth is wide open, screaming, if not otherwise then by bending it open with surgical instruments.

In his works, Helnwein, born in Vienna 1948, deals with the post-nazi era angst, the narrow-minded attitudes of the Catholic church and the abuse of children. Helnwein's works have spawned much fear and loathing. Especially works depicting tied and abused children have enraged many a spectator. The works have been censored, even attempted to burn and tear off the walls.

In latter years Helnwein's fury has not diminished, but he has strived to release his own angst by concentrating on the possibilities given by comics and animation. He has even created an art book of the greatest Disney artist of all time, Carl Barks. Wer ist Carl Barks was published in 1993.

Helnwein feels obvious sympathy towards Donald Duck, but Mickey Mouse, the symbol of the entire Disney empire he is not at all kind to. Helnwein's Mickey (1995) is a portrait of a relentless entertainer who spreads his joyous gospel with a wide grin.

In his newer works Helnwein also presents new aspects of international super stars. The hologram-like series Fire (1996) presents a number of non-conformists, from Fassbinder to Hendrix. Patti Smith is the only woman in this group.

Helnwein's photographic portraits amaze. They reproduce every wrinkle in the faces of William Burroughs, Carl Barks, Clint Eastwood and Keith Richards in a razor-sharp manner. One can see their professions from their faces.