Sinister in Monochrome: the Drawings of Mercedes Helnwein

I’ve recently had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with the drawings of Mercedes Helnwein. Daughter of the Austrian-Irish artist-provocateur, Gottfried Helnwein, Mercedes shows influence of her father’s watercolour paintings, without relying on his heavy-handed visual and visceral upset. Concentrating on the female figure, the incorporation of small or hand-held props, and the artist’s impeccable technical drawing abilities, Mercedes Helnwein presents a body of portraits almost exclusively in graphite chiaroscuro that have an unmistakable and delectable sense of sinisterness. Helnwein’s beautiful figures seem to have walked right out of an ad from a 1950s issue of Good Housekeeping (or Williamsburg, Brooklyn). Irony, however, is injected into the subject matter and conceptual elements of the renderings with situational humor, awkwardness, or juxtaposition of the figure to her environment and/or prop. Helnwein’s drawings are an examination of the female figure, donned in mod clothes, and disoriented, if not displaced, extending to the viewer a lovely, clean rendering of beauty in a vulnerable and most honest means. The artist is currently working toward her November 2009 exhibition at Merry Karnowsky Gallery in Los Angeles, California, working on her second novel, and consistently collaborates on films with her brother, Ali Helnwein.

-Joel Sager

1 Response to “Sinister in Monochrome: the Drawings of Mercedes Helnwein”

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