Louis le Brocquy, Sean Scully, Tony O'Malley, Hughie O'Donoghue, Gottfried Helnwein, Basil Blackshaw, Dorothy Cross, William Crozier, Mary FitzGerald, Martin Gale, Elizabeth Magill, Janet Mullarney, Paul Nugent, Linda Quinlan.
Editor: Nuala Fenton Hardcover 280 pages ISBN 978-0544843-8-5
mixed media (oil and acrylic on canvas), 2004, 152 x 111 cm / 59 x 43''
by Medb Ruane
Gottfried Helnwein's classic yet unnerving images transform sentimental representations of childhood into portraits of individual subjects frozen at the moment of suffering. His photo-paintings pirouette on the fine line between chocolate box pictures/excessive sentimentality and the cost to children of being treated as commodities, of suffering emotional or physical pain at a grown-up's hands.
High pictorial and technical values create compositions that recall contemporary cinema and seventeenth-century painting, expanding the treatment of time into epic. This apparent grandiosity plays against the immediacy of each suffering subject, underlining the different experience of time in childhood. Small hurts can devastate when you're a child. Big hurts stay with you for years, as survivors of Hitler's Anschluss testify.
Now, in the age of virtual use and abuse of children, Helnwein's insistence on valuing the humanity and charm of the littlest, the least powerful, offers a counterpoint to claims that suffering counts most when you're grown-up. It opens his practice into a series of pictorial mise-en-scènes, as did Rembrandt's tableaux in The Blinding of Samson (1636) or The Night Watch (1642).