Important Art by Bill Viola
This unique exploration of technological systems to articulate transcendent perceptions reflects a convergence of eclectic influences: musical principles; the philosophies and rituals of non-Western cultures; Judeo-Christian mysticism; modernism and Romanticism; the natural and animal worlds; structuralist film; and the television and media world of his self-described "seven-channel childhood."
Viola: The Leading Video Artist of Today
Bill Viola (born 1951) is a contemporary video artist whose artistic expression depends upon electronic, sound, and image technology in New Media. His works focus on the ideas behind fundamental human experiences such as birth, death and aspects of consciousness.
Since the early 1970s, Viola has used video to explore the phenomena of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge. His works focus on universal human experiences—birth, death, the unfolding of consciousness—and have roots in both Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism. He has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art, and in so doing has helped to expand its scope in terms of technology, content, and historical reach.
He says that conventional film-makers "thought we were idiots and that video would never last", but soon a community of video artists coalesced and, a couple of years later, "we started to get letters from England, France andAsia from people who were working out what this video camera thing could do. We realised that this thing was going on everywhere."
A film by Mark Kidel
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
1379 Sherbrooke Street West
Directed by award-winning filmmaker Mark Kidel, this is a definitive portrait of the world’s leading video artist. Since 1972 Viola has created critically acclaimed architectural video installations, sound environments, videotapes, electronic music performances and works for television broadcast. His evocative pieces focus on universal human experiences and are inspired by both western and eastern art as well as religion and mystical traditions.
Viola’s works are not merely aesthetically very powerful but are also dense in meaning whilst they do not resort to traditional narrative patterns. In Viola’s works, one can easily detect the influence of classic Renaissance and Oriental art alongside the spirituality that comes from Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism and from Christian Mysticism.
Bill Viola was one of the first artists to use film and video in a Fine Art context. He has continued to utilise progressively more advanced equipment to create works in which the technology is secondary to the subject. This allows for the focus to be given to his images which are presented simply, like moving paintings.
Bill Viola: The Passions
Although Viola’s work has been the subject of numerous surveys, it has not been considered in terms of its sustained engagement with—indeed, reshaping of—the genre of portraiture. As the works in this exhibition reveal, Viola’s technological investigations rely on the language of the face and body, encouraging self-reflection as well as expressing the universality of our experiences and articulating metaphysical issues about our place in the world. No other artist has pressed us to confront these questions in such elegant, humanistic terms.