Bill Viola, is said to be one of the worlds most important living artists. He has played a vital role in establishing video art as an important and vital form of contemporary art.
The Art Gallery of South Australia, St Peters Cathedral and the Queens Theatre were transformed by screenings of his work earlier this year. Unfortunately I did not get the opportunity to see the screenings at St Peters or the Queens Theatre.
His works shown at The Art Gallery of South Australia were quite impressive because of the sheer scale of the work. His video installations were quite enveloping, immersing the viewer in the entirety of the image and the subversive sound in the environment whilst being subjected to Bill Viola’s distinctive themes of birth, death, love, anger, fear etc.
To be honest, at first I wasn’t very interested in the work and I could almost say I found it boring and un-engaging. However I returned to the exhibition and spent some time experiencing the installation alone and gained a much greater appreciation for the work.
The scale and composition of the pieces are breathtaking. Sitting in the dark room of the AGSA on the cold floor, alone with the installation, watching the flames grow or the water fall, the twinned piece on a double sided screen that I think was designed to be viewed by moving around from one side to another, I sat and watched each individually, paying particular attention to the immersive sound and the feelings and memories it evoked for me.
For me though, the most moving and impressive installation video was The Messenger, where a naked man emerges from a bottomless body of water, slowly floating up to the surface before gasping for breath and sinking back down again. I watched this piece a few times and there was something strangely mesmerising about it. It was simultaneously calming and unsettling.