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Friday, 26 July 2013

Bill Viola: The slowing of time to create meditative space

Bill Viola is described by the American Academy of Religion as a "pioneering video artist whose internationally exhibited work explores universal human experiences - birth, death, the unfolding of consciousness - and has its roots in religious traditions including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism."

Frustrated Actions and Futile Gestures is a museum-scale exhibition of nine new works by Viola at Blain|Southern. "Created between 2012 and 2013, both on location and in the artist’s studio in Southern California, the exhibition presents three distinct bodies of works; the Frustrated Actions, the Mirage and the Water Portraits series. Through these works, Viola engages with complex aspects of human experience, including mortality, transience and our persistent, yet ultimately futile attempts to truly and objectively understand ourselves and the meaning of our brief lives."

Much of Viola's work features the slowing of time (see, in particular, the four works from the Mirage series) in order to create meditative space for reflection on his core themes, all of which resonate with religious beliefs and significance:

"In Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity (2013) a man and woman in the later stages of their lives emerge out of the darkness, pausing to explore their own naked bodies with torches, a daily routine search for disease and decay. The figures are projected onto two seven-foot high black granite slabs, suggestive of tombstones, which evoke a sense of impending mortality. The diptych, Man with His Soul (2013) presents us with a man sitting on a chair, waiting, though we will never discover exactly what he is waiting for. The left hand screen – in high-definition video – depicts his conscious self, while the right – shot in grainy black and white – portrays his soul, his inner being. Thus, the viewer is confronted with a juxtaposition of physical and psychological realities. Angel at the Door (2013) continues to explore this theme of the ‘inner self’; a cycle develops whereby a man hears a knocking at the door, but each time he opens it, he finds no one there – only a dark void. When he opens the door for the final time, however, there is an explosion, revealing a mirror image of himself – offering a thought-provoking insight into man’s inevitable and unavoidable confrontation with his ‘inner self’."

Viola has said that art resides in life itself, "that as a practice it derives primarily from the quality of experience, depth of thought and devotion of the maker": "Everything else, virtuosity with the materials, novelty of the idea or approach, innovation in craft or technique, skill of presentation, historical significance, importance of the venue, in short, almost everything I learned to value in art school - was secondary."


All Things Bright and Beautiful - The Transfiguration Part 1.

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