Giacomo Costa – Artist – Italy
I first encountered Helmut and his work during a festival in Bielsko-Biala in Poland at which we were both invited to display our work.
However before I could get to know his work I got to know him as a person. I immediately felt something very special – an inexplicable sense of connection. From the very beginning our ways of thinking and acting were in harmony – almost as if we had known each other since childhood. And then, as I sat through Helmut’s lecture and discovered his work, I understood why I felt this way.
It is easy for me to speak about his work for it is as if I were speaking about my own.
But it is not just the way we think or see things that unite us but above all the way in which we experience photography. This common experience is both rare and precious in an age in which each artist seeks to express his thoughts and feelings in as individual manner as possible – as a result of which groups of artists or similarities of artistic expression are rare. In viewing Helmut’s work and hearing his words I was able to understand so many of my own artistic gestures and decisions.
We are photographers in the truest sense of the word, but we use neither camera nor film. We use computers, the internet and found images which already exist and which we tear from their original context in order to be able to combine them in a new way.
For us the subject in front of the camera is not the only real photographic element. This is just an object which one uses – like an ingredient in a complex recipe in which there is no single “important” constituent part, because it is precisely this mixture of different elements which leads to the quality of the final composition.
We are photographers.
In a time in which everything is fictional and artificial, many people feel pressured to seek out truth and reality. Many see the photograph as a representation of reality as a result of which they are uncomfortable looking at our photographic work. A photograph has the quality of scientific proof – but one which in reality is immediately stripped of all meaning. To me the real world is not two-dimensional and does not exist on paper and is certainly not black and white.
Over the years, the instruments of photography have greatly changed – from the daguerreotype to the film negative, then colour and then the digital age. There have been many steps but the substance itself has never really changed.
And yet the artist Helmut Grill operates on the level of deception in that he tricks the viewer into believing that he is seeing a reproduction of reality.
This reflects the fact that the only thing which a viewer expects to see in a photograph is the object which the photographer captured with his lens.
But there is nothing as deceptive as this. And it is precisely this deception, this false certainty, with which the artist can play.
Helmut is free.
He is free from those who claim that his photographs are not proper photographs. Free from those who believe that true photography is precisely that photography that is produced for and from a subject.
Helmut tells us his own stories, he uses his own subjects, he creates scenes which represent no reality but yet which appear real to us and are, for precisely this reason, misleading. He creates paradoxes which baffle the viewer because they appear so unbelievably real.
And in this way he forces us to question and to try and understand if what we are seeing can really be true. We let out a sigh of relief when we recognise that these images are not real even when we ask ourselves at the same time what is going on in the mind of the artist in order to allow him to create such ironic, cynical and provocative visions. Many will suspect that each image contains social criticism or a comment on consumerism. However, the more one looks at his work, the more one comes to appreciate the obvious paradoxes and the pleasure and enjoyment with which he plays with the viewer. One comes to understand that he enjoys tearing elements out of their context: Elements which we usually use as safe markers as we navigate our way through the world.
Helmut’s photographic work pulls no punches as he uses it to tell us about his world. A world which is often full of levity and irony and with images packed with refinement and intensity – just like Helmut Grill – the man and artist – himself.