With her series of oil pastels entitled Chaos Theory, Mercedes Helnwein (b. 1979) seeks to capture “the weight of quiet moments, and the triggers for chaos buried in them… the domestic cosmos and its fallout.” Born in Vienna, Austria, Helnwein now divides her time between Ireland and Los Angeles.
The “American way of life” – seen from a European perspective – plays a big part in her work. She focuses on suburban American adolescence: living rooms, Halloween, prom, family members, and television sets, looking at these scenes of daily life through a “claustrophobic” lens. The stories depicted take on an obsessive quality as she returns to the subjects over and over to capture the accidental emotions that she believes these moments betray. Helnwein will also be presenting two films, Cops, and Nurses, which present enigmatic and disquieting scenes of mundane workplace inter- actions.
The Hopperesque quality of her films and oil pastels, from the ambiguous dynamics of the relationships to the slice-of-life drama, recalls many of Hopper’s iconic masterworks. Hopper once said, “The inner life of a human being is a vast and varied realm, and does not concern itself alone with stimulating arrangements of color, form and design.” Helnwein picks up the challenge of depicting that vast and varied realm, and her explorations will, no doubt, elicit countless new possibilities.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website