Generated Emotions

Gero Hellmuth reflects Auschwitz

Gero Hellmuth´s art is Art of our present time. His art deals with aspects of a history

which is part of our day and age, in an extremely personal and thus in an authentic way on the

one hand, however, on the other hand as an objective creation in the autonomous way of Art

and her very own statutes. Only in this way his art can touch us – not to understand but to move

us. Means of knowledge will open up which are beyond a simple and often precipitous


There is an artist posing questions to himself in the double meaning of the word, not

considering his own or the viewers feelings, admittedly avoiding each and every obvious

titillation. You do not cry out when looking at his paintings and objects, you do not shrink away in

repulsion, but will become quiet and thoughtful.

Yet his work of art does not offer answers to persistent questions, no relieving explanations, no

assistance to comprehend, however it demands to investigate your own attitude but instead to

ask yourself anew concerning possible consequences. The Art as is once again shown here

surpasses herself as and when she remains consequently her very own and the more she

follows her own rules.

In one of his exceptional texts, Franz Joseph van der Grinten has expressed this in direct

connection to Hellmuth´s artwork as follows: There are shocks derived from personal

bewilderment translated into an autonomous language. They are controlled, they are deliberate,

they have taken shape before the critical eye. The onlooker is witness to a clarifying dialogue.

There is a penetration even in brooding, and even through the deepest of darkness, the path

does not lead into something nebulous and incomprehensible, but what appears to be beyond

understanding gives finally rise to realization. Gero Hellmuth knows that expression has to be

generated by form. That is what Art can and must accomplish. Anything beyond that would be


In numerous paintings, the Number <19> appears in form or content, partly hidden, partly

obvious, and sometimes monumental or else in an aggregate state, stereotyped stylized. Gero

Hellmuth took the <19> from a documentary describing the Auschwitz Concentration Camp,

taking this motif as a lead to his Auschwitz Cycle; comprising the years 1995 to 2003; even

though in later years he also frequently made use of it. It reminds you of the tattooed numbers of

the Concentration Camp prisoners who were registered as numbers only after having been

robbed not only of their individuality but of their dignity as well. Time and again you will discover

this number. In the painting “Mountain of Mourning” these numbers pile up like a hill consisting of

bones. Yet this magical number is not just a recollection of the extermination camps. It is at the

same time the cipher of our past century and is thus hammered into, yes almost painfully burnt

into the viewer´s mind. How much pain and catastrophes, guilt, atonement and sin, did this

century cause us – yet also featuring liberation, understanding, peace and hope.

A key artwork, created in 1995, no doubt is the great triptych “Auschwitz – Liberation”. The three

wooden panels are connected by means of hinges as with late gothic winged triptychs, yet

instead of the hieratic statics, an instable balance has been achieved. Dynamic lines made of

iron are connecting the various parts; they are guiding us when reading from left to right from the

light via the setting-in of demonic darkness, via destruction and chaos, returning again to light –

whereas something hidden here underneath cannot be determined precisely. Can it really be just

a shadow from the past? Have we really and truly overcome these shadows of the past? The

panel in the middle reminds you of a door, the symbol for opening-up but also for closing-in. A lot

remains unexplained and asks the viewer quite a lot of questions.

“Time Witness – Bridge to the Future” is the title of another artwork, also from the year 1995. It

consists of an “objet trouvé”, a ship`s plank which has survived a ship-wreck. This, too, including

the title, an unintentional topical motif, an almost terrifying prophetic work. Like a shadow, the

stele catches the plank from behind, with the numbers <19>dribbling down, so to speak, in order

to vanish in the nowhere.

Hellmuth´s work of art is just as timeless as – sometimes frightening – topical. Darkness is in it,

the reminder not to forget, the relentless confrontation with misery and terror but also poetic

charm and beauty. But never do they constitute manifestos of resignation but always signs of

hope, full of energy. To intensively preoccupy yourself with this in a situation in which signs lead

to an ever-increasing and fatal step back into the Cold War which was believed to have been

overcome, as well as the all too well known disastrous alternate game of distrust, threat and

revenge, could be the dictates of the hour. Did we not understand, or did we think all too eagerly

to have understood it all? In any case we need artists such as Gero Hellmuth and an art like this