The world can be a frightening place with all the horrors of war, exploitation, and poverty. But we’re often guilty of turning a blind eye to what’s happening all around us, unless of course we’re confronted with a child’s own suffering – that’s when we’re inclined to really sit up and take notice. It’s perhaps why renowned artist Gottfried Helnwein paints youngsters in his provocative works, showing their pain and stolen innocence to remind us of our societal failures.
Born in Vienna in 1948, Gottfried grew up in a post-Nazi landscape that would shape much of his work today, primarily exploring the human condition amongst politics and historical events. Much of his art is dominated by images of children, including those wounded or scarred physically, as well as emotionally from within. In many of his paintings, he adds cartoon characters to further bring the message home that some children are forced to grow up too soon.
In an interview with Bak Magazine, Gottfried said: “We are living in the age where materialism has finally triumphed. The world has been purged of fairies, elves, witches, angels, enchanted castles and hidden treasures. Dreaming and fantasizing is nowadays considered a chemical imbalance in the brain of the child. For reasons of national security there are no realms of imagination anymore in which to escape – children are held in the merciless headlight of the adults level-headed, common-sense-madhouse: a world of stock markets, war, rape, pollution, television-moronism, Prozac, prison-camps, miss universe-competitions, genetic engineering, child pornography, Ronald McDonalds, Paris Hilton and torture.”
Here we share artworks from his Disasters of War and The Murmur of the Innocents collections. But you can discover more of his thought-provoking paintings at www.helnwein.com.