"A writer as well as visual artist, Mercedes Helnwein does not so much tell stories or even capture moments in her drawings as she triggers possibilities-the possibilities being vaguely unlikely, vaguely unsavoury, and not-so-vaguely menacing, rather like inverse Magrittes. Helnwein's basic ingredient is the fully, fashionably, clothed human figure, more often than not regarding the viewer or about to; occupying a peculiarly lit, but familiar space, they are shown engaged in a solipsistic soliloquy- self-absorbed and drenched in an almost urgent ennui-with someone and/or something else. The something else is never a weapon, and the someone else never seems to be a love interest or BFF, so the narrative tension keeps to a simmer. But that tension is the more pervasive for its very indirection and indefinability…"
Peter Frank for Art Ltd, January 2010
Mercedes Helnwein was born in Vienna, daughter to renowned painter and art provocateur Gottfried Helnwein. She later moved to Ireland with her family, where she spent her teens drawing, writing and absorbing influences, which range from the Southern Gothic to the cartoons of Robert Crumb; from Nineteenth Century Russian literature to American motel culture and the Delta blues. The result is a style distinctly her own – unsettling, direct and quietly humorous.
In 2003, she added Los Angeles as a second home. Teaming up with friend and photographer Alex Prager, Mercedes Helnwein began exhibiting her art regularly around L.A. in unorthodox one-night shows. Her intricate pencil drawings of weird goings-on soon began to attract a strong following, making her a vital presence the L.A. art scene. She followed these shows with solo outings in Berlin, London and twice at The Molesworth Gallery in Dublin. Mercedes Helnwein currently divides her time between downtown Los Angeles and Ireland. Her work is in many important international collections, while her most recent exhibition in London was bought out in its entirety by Damien Hirst, who is amassing one of the UK's most important collections of contemporary art.