Gottfried Helnwein is one of the most widely known contemporary artist, who has been working in his field for the past 40 years. Born and brought up in Vienna, the Austrian-Irish fine artist has worked as a painter, draftsman, photographer, muralist, sculptor, installation- and performance artist, using a wide variety of techniques and media.
Helnwein’s early work consists mainly of hyper-realistic watercolors, depicting wounded children, as well as performances – often with children – in public spaces. Helnwein is concerned primarily with psychological and sociological anxiety, historical issues and political topics. As a result of this, his work is often considered provocative and controversial.
Another strong element in his work are comics. Helnwein has sensed the superiority of cartoon life over real life ever since he was a child. A magazine interview brought out an explanation of his obsession with Disney characters. Growing up in dreary, destructed post-war Vienna, the young boy was surrounded by unsmiling people haunted by a recent past they could never speak about. What changed his life was the ﬁrst German-language Donald Duck comic book that his father brought home one day. Opening the book felt like finally arriving in a world where he belonged: "...a decent world where one could get ﬂattened by steam-rollers and perforated by bullets without serious harm. A world in which the people still looked proper, with yellow beaks or black knobs instead of noses."
Among numerous recognitions, Gottfried Helnwein was awarded the Master-class prize (Meisterschulpreis) of the University of Visual Art, Vienna, the Kardinal-König prize and the Theodor-Körner prize.
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