Jewish Chronicle, London, 02. June 2000

Julia Weiner
London show for Gottfried Helnwein, Artist's haunting Nazi-era Images

Austrian artist Gottfired Helnwein's powerful and haunting paintings provide a disturbing commentary on Nazism and the Holocaust, regularly provoking outraged reactions from right-wingers in his native land and in Germany. "I was amazed how much pictures could reach into the hearts and minds of people - and how much they would talk to me about it," he told the JC. "For me, art is like a dialogue. My art is not giving answers, it is asking questions."

But although his work has been exhibited widely throughout Europe, as well as in the United States, Russia and Japan, his current exhibition at Robert Sandelson's gallery in London's Cork Street is his first British one-man show.

Mr. Sandelson, who is Jewish, confessed to being "bowled over" upon first seeing Mr. Helnwein's paintings, in San Francisco last year.
The London exhibition includes a number of works based on traditional church altarpieces, one featuring Oswald Mosley and his blackshirt followers. Another depicts a group of SS officers adoring the Virgin and Child, intended to evoke the wartime relationship between the Nazis and the Roman Catholic church.

Fearing that people have become inured to the atrocities of the Holocaust, the artist seeks to elicit, indeed to provoke, a response from viewers.

Born in Vienna in 1948, he grew up asking questions about his country's recent past - questions his family were at pains not to answer.
It was not until he exhibited a portrait of Adolf Hitler alongside paintings of injured children, he recalled, that people began discussing the war with him. Mr. Helnwein's intention had been to suggest Hitler's responsibility for suffering. Yet he discovered that many viewers merely admired the portrait of the Nazi leader. . .


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