"The most powerful images that deal with Nazism and Holocaust themes are by Anselm Kiefer and Helnwein, although, Kiefer's work differs considerably from Helnwein's in his concern with the effect of German aggression on the national psyche and the complexities of German cultural heritage. But Kiefer and Helnwein's work are both informed by the personal experience of growing up in post-war German speaking countries...
William Burroughs said that the American revolution begins in books and music, and political operatives implement the changes after the fact. To this maybe we can add art.
And Helnwein's art might have the capacity to instigate change by piercing the veil of political correctness to recapture the primitive gesture inherent in art."
"Gottfried Helnwein's self-portraits in his "Black Mirror" series reach far beyond the boundaries of the ordinary self-portrait. They reflect the inner wants and desperation which lies within the viewer's own self. Helnwein points out the new form of the modern self-portrait which involves the creator and viewer alike."
"Helnwein is the most important living painter."
"An alternative title to 'Angels Sleeping' for this exhibition could be “All Hail to the Wounded Child,” as many of the works center on irreparably wounded children (both externally and internally) as the innocent victims of war. The children in Helnwien’s works may also represent the lost or destroyed child in all of us, not only as victims of war, but as victims of modern society, with all its mindless violence and perverse attraction to aggressive mobs and disturbances. If there were a soundtrack to this exhibition, it would be a long, endless scream."
"Helnwein's work is perfectly executed proof of the mastery of all the available means to outdo the reality in depiction.
Only in this way was Helnwein able to trigger the shock that he intended, a shock with a possible healing effect.
Helnwein developed a visual language depicting apocalyptic visions that can be understood all over the world. The beautiful and the ugly, the fear of the terrible and the power of its fascination, the clearly recognisable and that which cannot be interpreted but lurks outside the painting as well as outside the nursery door, and more closely intertwined in these pictures than those of any other living artist."
"Austria has been one of the main hubs of European culture, especially in music and art. The artists are not always conventional or conformist. Like the recent Nobel Prize winner for literature, Elfriede Jelinek, some of Helnwein’s work, which takes an uncomfortable look at Austria’s past and the unhealthily close relationship between Church and Sate in the Nazi era, has caused controversy.
I think we should be in no doubt that we are in the presence of the work of an artist of exceptional stature."
"Your paintings have left a deep impact on me.
To be honest - they have shocked me.
I have thought about it for a long time and came finally to the conclusion, that people should be confronted with these images to be inspired to think."
"In a moving exhibition at the Wilhelm Busch Museum in Hannover, paintings of the Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein are on view. One of his paintings shows a girl with a rascally face wearing an armband for the blind, with her tongue sticking out. At first I smiled. If you keep looking at this painting, you will see that the girl has blood running down the inside of her legs. The child obviously was abused, force was used against her... yes, children are vulnerable. Childhood can be terrible, when children are at the mercy of someone.
- I'm thinking of the 12 year old Judith Wischnajatskaja, who wrote her last letter in July 1942: "Dear Father! With death I bid you goodbye. We would like to live so much but we are not allowed, we will perish. I am so afraid of this death because the little children are thrown into the pit alive."
"Helnwein is a great believer in the ability of art to pass emotional memory on, as a reminder of the past or mainly as a warning of what the future might hold, for humanity, as far as he is concerned, has not learnt its lesson. Is there atonement in his artistic endeavors? I prefer the Jewish concept of “tikkun”, purification of the soul. It has a deeper meaning than the physical healing of scars, for it elevates us to the highest sphere of the spirit. The wounded girls close their eyes, but they are not blind. Behind their closed lids their gaze is clear and penetrating."
"Not even the children were spared; they, too, fell victim to the destruction.
It was Gottfried Helnwein's most convincing idea to present the consequences to this period without mercy" in such an unconventional manner. He made no use of photos of heaped corpses; children's portraits force the observer to stop and consider this idea. The fury with which the neo-nazis reacted to these portraits is understandable inasmuch as it is the very same fury with which they have for years been fighting against The Diary of Anne Frank; the murder of children rouses abhorrence and conflict in every human, whether they are motivated by ideology or insanity. The urge to destroy has survived; the portraits bear witness to its rage - an attempt was made to cut them to shreds. "People, please, stop,... look at these children's faces, multiply their number by a few hundred thousand. Only then will you realise or gain an inkling of the extent of the Holocaust, of the greatest tragedy in human history!
(About the installation 'Ninth November Night') "
"Seine hyperrealistischen Gemälde machten ihn zu einem der bedeutendsten Künstler der Gegenwart"
"Wohl kein autoporträtatives Schaffen ist in der zweiten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts derart mit einer expressiven Gesellschaftskritik, mit einer Anklage verbunden, wie das von Gottfried Helnwein. Der Künstler macht sich um einer schonungslosen Aussage willen zum schreienden, zum stellvertretend leidenden Objekt seiner Bilder: „Ich will mit meinen Bildern und Aktionen die Menschen aus ihrer Eingefrorenheit lösen, wenn auch nur eine Sekunde lang, will sie verunsichern und zu spontanen Reaktionen hinreißen. Verunsichern, aber nicht destruktiv. Die logische Denkfähigkeit soll zugunsten totaler Selbstöffnung kurz trocken gelegt werden“, stellte der österreichische Maler, Grafiker und Aktionskünstler Gottfried Helnwein zur Intention seines Werkes fest.
Helnweins Gemälde und Zeichnungen, die in der Tradition von Odilon Redon und Alfred Kubin stehen, zeigen mit hoher Suggestionskraft Szenarien von verletzten Menschen. Zunächst nur Kinder, dann auch Erwachsene in teils grotesken Posen, teils laut schreiend, teils in introvertierter Stille. Aber selbst wenn in ihnen nicht bildlich dargestellt geschrieen wird, so ist in den meisten Bildern ein stummer Aufschrei impliziert, der sich auf das ganze Werk überträgt"