With her signature monochrome style, Johanna Helmuth introduces us to a world of perpetual frustration. Admittedly, Kiefer, with his monumental ruminations on identity, and Rego’s bold, unflinching illustrations, exert more of an influence these days. In contrast, the imagery that springs from her brushes is strong, stark, and clearly drawn.
Roughly hewn subjects populate Helmuth’s canvases, the coarse finish resulting from her use of a palette knife to apply paint. They exist in a monochrome universe, set against backdrops devoid of details. This austerity directs viewers to focus on the figures, the discord and drama evinced in their awkward poses. There is an undercurrent of deviancy running across her paintings, especially on the tableaux presented in the six larger works. She paints to speak of personal experiences; she makes no pretenses to any grand statements. Helmuth’s purview is limited to her circle of family, friends, and acquaintances, the goings-on in her world.