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Viola visions

Bill Viola, Silent Mountain 2001 Kira Perov Bill Viola, Silent Mountain 2001 Kira Perov
The prospect of sensual and emotional immersion in an exhibition of recent works by Bill Viola will have many planning pilgrimages to Canberra in the Spring. Memories of The Messenger, which appeared at various arts festivals here, should be enough to prompt these journeys. And it’s the first large scale exhibition of Viola’s works to come to Australia.

Viola’s slow motion imagery hovers dynamically between photography’s stillness and cinema’s fluidity, allowing for both intense contemplation and a sense of transformation. The colouration, framing and positioning of his subjects suggests a latterday Renaissance vision (sometimes inspired by works of the period) replete with religious overtones that never lock down suggested meanings.

The show is a touring exhibition of the J Paul Getty Trust. It includes the monumental The Five Angels of the Millenium (2001): 5 bodies on giant screens in a darkened room, moving through water, but impossible to tell if they are rising or falling, save for moments when the surface is strikingly broken. The other works in the show range from large works to intimate portraits.

In the meantime we can fantasize witnessing the Peter Sellars-Bill Viola collaboration on Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde for this year’s Salzburg Festival: it gloriously graces the pages of many international art magazines. Or if you want to read about Viola, there’s an excellent interview, which includes an account of Viola’s dysgraphia (a condition which privileges images over words and which was passed on to his eldest son), in John Tusa’s The Janus Aspect, Artists in the 21st Century (Methuen, London, 2005).

Free Viola or $5 Viola

If you’re a tertiary student and you have your card with you, you could be one of the first 2000 students to gain free entry to the exhibition. Or you might prefer Viola by Night. For $5 you get the show, a film, a lecture and cocktails and refreshments are available. RT

Bill Viola: The Passions, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, July 29-Nov 6;

RealTime issue #68 Aug-Sept 2005 pg. 56

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