With the project „…that they may live“, Gero Hellmuth has, together with tfhe composer Joseph Dorfman, taken on a massive Job, which is to be nothing less than „the fruits of a mutual search for the imagery, art and music of Christianity and Judaism, for a perspective for the beginning new millenium“ (Christhard-Georg Neubert). In relation to the past twentieth Century and the German-Jewish Holocaust history, Hellmuth had created the cycle „Liberation from Auschwitz“ in 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in 1945 having made an impression on him. The new work, in co-operation with a Jewish composer, aims to build a bridge to a more human future. Supported by Christian and Jewish ethical motives, a „Gesamtkunstwerk“ spanning all art forms is to be created, in which how-ever each piece of work can exist independently. It is our Intention to look at the plastic arts here in more detail.
Hellmuth’s approach to his theme uses the means of non-representational art and a language which does not deny its birth in the second half of the twentieth Century. The artistic approach bears reference to neoexpressive painting – names such as Sonderborg or Tapies spring here to mind. Hellmuth however extends far beyond pure painting entering into the object-like and sculptural. The painting opens itself up to the room, that is to say it is, in fad, often brutally forced open. Wooden and metal applications seem to grow directly from the ground and are thus able to convey injury and aggression in an abstract way. Only now and then do we see symbolic pieces of reality. The form of the cross often reminds us directiy of the crucifix, the Christian saviour in human form, along with the number 19, which is for Hellmuth the embodiment of the prisoners‘ numbers in the concentration camps while at the same time referring back to the past millenium. In the „Hill of Grief” the artist has, as it were, pictorially created a grave mound out of an accumulation of this number representing the murdered people. He has reproduced the motto of the environment ,r..that they may live“ in many languages in the pictures, thus underlining its globalism. The object pictures are mainly painted in black and white thus also carrying a striking message: white for hope and the future, black as well as red for past history and repression. This meaning is conveyed directiy at an emotional level.
The theme of the Holocaust has been treated recently in the plastic arts just as frequently as it has been controversially. A realistic treatment was generally not taken into consideration. Thus Hellmuth is here in line with other artists, but differs from them in that he does not wish to treat the Holocaust directly as a theme, preferring to concentrate on the future-orientated and hopeful existence and coexistence of all people – especially Jewish and non-Jewish people. The particular form of the triptych for a Christian altar reappears in his work again and again. The “Auschwitz Liberation Triptych“ takes up a central place, which, when read from left to right, symbolises the destruction of mankind and his final liberation. Another picture, that of hope, of the bridge into the future, is in comparison modest and quiet, the gentle rust coloured metallic beginnings of the arch being suggested in the scene. It is very conceivable that a new cycle in the creative work of Gero Hellmuth could stem from this. For the time being the vehement seems to dominate, the fight against the shadows of the past seems to be in full force. It is from this powerfull conflict that the work draws its compelling nature, protecting it from an all too easily conceivable awkwardness. The seriousness of its intention finds adequate expression in a pictorial language, which imparts itself equally to the amateur as to the expert. This could be based among other things on the fad that certain elements are repeated, as for example the rhythm of three, the cross form, the powerfuli Interruption of a bridge-type figure, sharp edged cracks, pointed bent metal bars rising up into the air, the number 19 and the material: wood, metal, canvas and colour, the latter being subordinate to the dynamics of the object or serving to underline it Contrasts determine the work and lead only seldom into the pacified colour white.
The work follows a program and, rather than illustrating it, accompanies it in an abstract fashion, comparable to good program music, which translates the con-tents and ihe atmosphere into sounds, into a generally comprehensible language, bound neither to country nor race. Thus some of these works are not necessarily restricted to a single content. They could serve as a warning against any form of brutal conflict The fact that a work of art is not related to one single historical event and not to be understood at one single level, rather that it is relevant on a general human and ethical level, lends it permanent validity.