1. Januar 1973
Self-portrait with Smiling-Aid (Selbstportrait mit Schmunzelhilfe)
Self-Portrait with Smiling-Aid
silver print, 1973
Peter Gorsen writes 1988, in his Essay THE DIVIDED SELF, Gottfried Helnwein in his Self-Portraits:
...The central importance of the "self-portrait" in Helnwein's work, the mutable art of a doppelganger, is no accident. It becomes the projection surface of world events. "The artist doesn't make history, history makes him" (Auguste Comte). The artist's doppelganger role as victim and perpetrator, martyr and satyr, penitent and accuser, proxy and self-portrayer, moralist and autist, and in many other metamorphoses embodies and stages the antagonistic social forces on a stage of his inner-world consciousness.
The self-portrait for the artist's blindfolded unbent head covered with blood occurs twice in his triptych THE SILENT GLOW OF THE AVANTGARDE (1986). The middle panel shows an enlarged reproduction of C.D. Friedrich's POLAR SEA, a depiction of a catastrophe of 1823/24 which is generally interpreted as a romantic allegory of the force of nature overpowering all human effort . Helnwein compared the "quietly theatrical" ecstatic attitude of his self-portrait with the heroic pose of the figure of the suffering figure of Sebastian and generalizes both to the stigma of the artist in the 20th century, making him a kind of saviour figure. In addition, its poetic title sets the viewer onto the right track. The visual montage of the modern artist as Man of Sorrows with Friedrich's landscape painting projects the dashed hopes of the romantic rebellion into the present, to the protest thinking of modernity, which has become introverted and masochistic, and its crossing of aesthetic boundaries.
Is romanticism making a comeback? No; actually, it had never left modernity. But its rebellion is confining and introverting itself in the "body metaphysics" of contemporary artists to its own flesh and blood. Thus, the comeback of romanticism leads for Helnwein, too, to stressing just once of its partial aspects, the stylizing in the form of a self-portrait of a protest introverted to martyrdom which historically was once linked in a contradictory way with social opposition, rebellion, and utopia.

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