by Mic Moroney
...This unease with, and yet celebration of German-language cutlure continues to inform Helnwein's work, not least in this large piece, "The Silent Glow of the Avant Garde"
Helnwein's painting - both cheekily and totally in homage - appropriates the great paintings, "The Polar Sea" (1824) by the leading German Romantic landscape artist Casper David Friedrich. Helnwein here re-renders the painting in a gloomy, cinematic blue-black duochrome, and hugely magnifies it from its original scale (about 1 metre by 1 metre 30), although the foundered ship still seems dwarfed and pulverised by the splintering ice sheets. It remains a fine example of that particularly Germanic celebration of heroic humanity dashing itself against the majestic cruelty of nature.
Helnwein, in his wry title and borrowing of the image, is suggesting an uncomfortable paradigm behind Friedrich's painting - a perpetual sense of momentous revolution within nature, raw humanity and indeed artistic culture. These ideas pervaded Friedrich's work, as well as that of composer Richard Wagner and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche - all of whose works were later so mistakenly absorbed into the "superhuman" aesthetic of Nazi ideaology and doctrine...