In autumn 2008 I was feeling unwell and didn’t do any photography. That particular day I was limping across the bridge from the Plunkett train station in Waterford to catch a bus to the hospital, all soaked in drizzle and focused on my own misery. When I turned to The Quay I met the eyes of a giant girl looking at me from the Old Flour Mills over the river. I didn’t have any camera on me, neither was I planning to return to Waterford soon. I looked at the girl with regret and she looked at me with sorrow.“I now see that sorrow, being a supreme emotion of which man is capable, is at once the type and test of all great art.” De Profundis by Oscar WIlde
Image courtesy of www.helnwein.com
Controversial, as some people say, artist Gottfried Helnwein was born in 1948 in war-torn Vienna, Austria. You can read his biography on his website ( all the links open in separate windows), and not only the biography. I have read his interviews and quotes, and also translated some from German, for good measure, and I advise you to do so to know all by yourself who he is, what he is trying to tell, and why.
Image courtesy of www.helnwein.com
Many people get confused when they encounter unfamiliar aspects of art; they tend to interpret the meaning based on their own culture, and get confused even more. They might even call this confusion “shock”. My daughter and I went to The Body World 3 exhibition in Salt Lake City a few years ago. The generosity of the donors’ last gift was humbling. Was this exhibition shocking? No. It was educational. Shock is something that locks, not opens. When one says that something is shocking, they stop thinking and learning right there.
Image courtesy of www.helnwein.com
My Father was a POW from 1941 to 1945. I only know from my Mother that he escaped, jumped in the sea and swam, but was reported by a local farmer and imprisoned again in a different camp. He would sit on the sofa with me to watch a cheesy war-related love story on TV, but start crying after a few minutes; he just wasn’t able to bear the mention of the war. What terror had he gone through? You think it will never come back? You think that Fascism is a ghost of the past? Think again.
Image courtesy of www.helnwein.com“There are times when sorrow seems to me to be the only truth. Other things may be illusions of the eye or the appetite, made to blind the one and cloy the other, but out of sorrow have the worlds been built, and at the birth of a child or a star there is pain.” De Profundis by Oscar Wilde
There are some blood-chilling statistics for you to think about. In the wars during the 80s-90s more children were killed than soldiers.
School shootings. Did you hear about gun control in the 19th century? Yet from 1800 till 1900 there were only about 50 school shootings registered in the USA, mostly as revenge against the teachers, or accidental ; about 190 cases in 20th century and 145 cases from 2000-2013. Statistics include also dormitory and drive-by shootings near the school buildings, and this information is only for the United States. You can also check http://www.ijvs.org/ which goes for International Journal on Violence in Schools.
How about home violence, genocide, starvation, children sex tourism? How about the gruesome discovery in Tuam, Ireland? I can go on and on about all the children who came into this world to be betrayed. Do you still consider the paintings of Gottfried Helnwein “shocking”?“I feel there is a strong bond between artists and children and all other sacred fools” Gottfried Helnwein in an interview with Yuchi Konno for Yaso, Japan
When I think about Gottfried Helnwein’s personality, the only thing that truly matters to me is Family. He is a family man who raised his family well. Over fifteen years ago he bought a castle near where I live. Gurteen de la Poer castle. He resides there with his family, his children and grandkids. I wanted to know what their safe haven looks like; to see what the artist sees when he is with his own, away from the media and curious eyes. I contacted his son Cyril and asked if I could take some photos around the castle grounds.
Isn’t it beautiful? They even have some ducks there, one named Donald. If you read the biography you will know that it is symbolic.
I was invited inside. It is so delightful and homely there, with the afternoon sun beaming through the green vines covering the gothic windows. And you know what? I actually got to see all the images from that Waterford 2008 installation because Cyril kindly gave me a copy of the book The Last Child!
Having this peaceful home why would one bother crying warnings?
Any of us can make our home a castle: we can barricade ourselves from the world, protect our children from bad influences, home-teach, train in marital arts, life-coach them to be always on the safe side, you name it. And say you succeed when the rest of the world is falling apart. But let’s see it this way: do you want your child to be the last child on the planet?
Sad and poignant… But also powerful!.
Remarkable photographs, dear Inese. All my best wishes to you, Aquileana 😀
Thank you for reading! Have a good and productive day! 🙂
What a story about your father.
And about the castle, I do have to hook up with you one day before I die since you seem to be able to gain access to some pretty cool places.
Thank you! I will write my Dad’s story one day.
The castle is truly beautiful. And I loved the family.
The Castle is 6 minutes drive from where I live:)
Inese – Oh how you’ve reached into my heart and squeezed it so gently with photography and telling of a story wherein we’ve truly betrayed the children of this earth. Inese you are a born photo journalist with an extra special touch of making everything oh so human. I’ve been away this week as Tom had an unexpected heart surgery. I’m doing catch-up but wish to give each of your blogs my full attention as I read them. They are indeed, each one, a work of art. Sheri
I am so sorry to hear about the surgery… My prayers for Tom and speedy recovery. It makes me so angry to think about your life, and all that you did, and got no appreciation whatsoever… Your family should be entitled to a proper health care.
Thank you for your kind words, and for taking time to read. Children had been the most abused part of society since the world began… Jesus was the first who spoke for children… Now people have to learn to care not only about their own.
Thank you again for the comment.
This is a very touching piece. There are definitely children out there being betrayed and it’s all very well to make ourselves safe, but the better goal (for us all) is to make everyone safe.
Thank you for stopping by! Absolutely agree with you. The last child has no future.
This is beautiful and such meaningful work, Inese. Thank you for writing it and sharing all these images!
I’m off to get my blogging done for the day!
Emily Grace, thank you for reading! My heart goes out to all the innocent souls.
I am writing right now, it was a busy week…
I felt ambushed by that little girl carrying the gun. Mainly because I didn’t register the gun at first—if that is what you intended, it worked.
The first image likewise, it took a moment longer to see the man climbing down her nose.
Shocking for the sake of shocking (or worse, for the ‘fun’ of it) (or even more worse—because it is expected of your art) is stooping; but jolting the complacent and making them actually think can be sublime. Oscar Wilde? A clever man ahead of his times—I especially like his last words, and hope one day to be able to quote them in context (but not for a while yet~!).
The man on the rope is real: this was a huge installation, took some work to set it up:)
Gottfried Helnwein is a father and a grandfather. He was doing his best as any parent does; I bet he never hurt a child. I don’t know what is happening with our society that violence among children and violence against children is blooming… Reality is way more shocking than these images.
I love Oscar Wilde, it is why I used his quotes. People don’t like to stay in “the season of sorrow” too long. Somebody’s children are getting hurt – oh well, what can we do! Yet, here is an artist using his own granddaughter as a model to cry for all the innocent children, precious gifts, betrayed by those to whom they were entrusted. Would take that gun myself, really…:(
Sadly we live with it until people wake up and think. Wilde did time for merely being out of time; today—?
Have you been to his grave?
Sadly, no (for that matter I don’t even know where he’s buried—?).
There’s a couple of others I’d also like to have visited, passed very close by but circumstances couldn’t fit it in— Robert Louis Stevenson and Ben Franklin. Maybe one day ….
I understand, I too would visit a couple of graves…
Beautiful work….Somber, true warnings.
Thank you for reading! Children are the most vulnerable and the most abused.
Thanks for following http://www.geokult-travel.com. Your blog looks really interesting so am following back 🙂 This story is very interesting too!
Thank you Tracey! Glad you like what I post:) You have a great blog.
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