September 23, 2006
Irish Independent
The girl with the closed eyes
Helnwein's "Modern Sleep" exhibition at Fenton Gallery in Cork
With her reddened lips slightly ajar and her eyes gently shut, this little girl could either be in serene repose or even, with her ghostly pallor, dead. Considering the artist who has created this hauntingly compelling image, it's possibly the latter. Gottfried Helnwein, the man in question, has always danced along that fine line of controversy.
He hit Irish news headlines last year when he hosted the wedding of singer Marilyn Manson and burlesque stripper Dita Von Teese at his Tipperary home of Gorteen Castle but he has long rubbed shoulders with the international art world's divisive elite, such as Andy Warhol.
Well-known for his provocative imagery, Helnwein's earlier work referenced Nazi Europe and, when his paintings containing Nazi and religious images were hung at the Kilkenny Arts Festival five years ago, a vandal splattered them with red paint. At another event the same year, a powerful photograph of a young child was set on fire by an upset onlooker.
This new piece features in the first Irish commercial exhibition of this Austrian artist in the Fenton Gallery ( www.artireland.net ), which opened this week and continues until October 7.
Entitled Modern Sleep, Helnwein presents us with a series of paintings based on the theme of the child that has been central to his practice throughout his career. He has commented that the wounded child represents a 'betrayal of innocence', acting as a commentary on the exploitation of children in modern life and a symbol of a society that has become emotionally detached.
Whatever about society as a whole, it's certainly hard to remain emotionally detached when you view his compelling images.
(c) 2006 Independent Newspapers Ireland Ltd
Modern Sleep I
photograph, 2003




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