Bill Viola’s new exhibition at Blain|Southern presents small-screen works in an intimate context to reflect on the complex details of human relations and our attachment to the material world. Known for exploring the artistic potential of video since the seventies, here Viola employs a number of formats and techniques of filming and projection in works made within the last two decades.
In a triptych on adjoining flat screen panels, Poem B (The Guest House), 2006; we witness the residue of a life through the objects and structures that surround a solitary older woman. In Small Saints, 2008; six separate OLED screens depict six individuals appearing from the darkness, in footage that transitions between grainy black-and-white images from a surveillance camera, to the extreme clarity of high-definition digital video.
Viola makes direct classical references in his choice of formats. Mater, 2001 draws from the medieval uses of portable folding panel paintings. This diptych of small LCD screens portrays the shifting emotions of two women of different ages, with an ambiguous relationship existing between them. Unspoken (Silver & Gold), 2001; is a projected diptych of a man and woman, which connects with historical use of precious metals in art, with the optical properties of these highly textured surfaces altering the appearance of images in dramatic ways.
Self Portrait, Submerged, 2013, depicts the artist lying on the bed of a stream. In this alternate physical realm he lies with eyes closed, breathing out slowly, appearing to be completely at peace. It rounds off this focused selection of work that encapsulates an important aspect of Bill Viola’s wider preoccupation with the dynamics between spiritual and physical realm.Bill Viola, Intimate Works, 2019, Installation view. Courtesy the artist and Blain|Southern. Photo: Peter Mallet