Sunday, 7 July 2013

Bill Viola - Blain Southern

Bill Viola, The Dreamers (detail), 2013
Bill Viola: Frustrated Actions and Futile Gestures is at Blain Southern until 27 July 2013.
Bill Viola's video intallations typically deal with the 'big' questions of life, death and meaning and this large scale exhibition of new work is no exception. The work here falls into three bodies of work: "Frustrated Actions", the "Mirage" series and the "Water Portraits".
Chapel of Frustrated Actions and Futile Gestures (2013) consists of a grid of nine horizontal screens that depict figures perpetually repeating various activities - a man pulling a cart up a hill only to have it roll back down again as soon as it gets to the top, a man continually digging and refilling a hole, and so forth. Other works in this category include Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity (2013) in which an elderly man and woman emerge out of the darkness and examine their naked bodies by the light of a torch; in Angel at the Door (2013) a man hears a knocking at the door, but each time he opens it, he finds no one there except for the final time, when he is confronted by a mirror image of himself.
Bill Viola, Chapel of Frustrated Actions and Futile Gestures, 2013
Bill Viola, Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity, 2013
Bill Viola, Angel at the Door, 2013
The four works from the "Mirage" series - Ancestors (2012), The Encounter (2012), Walking on the Edge (2012) and Inner Passage (2013) - all filmed in the Mojave Desert, show figures walking through the heat haze of the landscape.
Bill Viola, Walking on the Edge, 2012
Finally, and perhaps most dramatically and impressively, The Dreamers (2013) consists of seven individual screens, which depict underwater portraits of people who appear to be sleeping. Disturbingly they never come up for air and for anyone who fears death by drowning these are disturbing (though beautiful) images!
Bill Viola, The Dreamers (detail), 2013
Bill Viola, The Dreamers (installation shot), 2013
Although Viola's preoccupations with serious and meaningful subjects and his obsessive use of watery themes can sometimes seem a little ponderous, portentous and heavy handed, his work is always visually impressive and seductive and always worth seeing.

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