Flying over the French Alpes it is worrying to see the scarcity of snow on the mountains. For miles inland from the coast there was no snow at all, which for this time of year is quite unusual. Even when we were further into the alpes the snow was only on the highest of peaks. Climate is changing and I need to do much more to reduce my carbone footprint!
I had two exhibitions that I wanted to go to during my brief stay in London, Bonnard at the Tate Modern and Bill Viola at the Royal Academy. I added one more and that was the Renaissance Nude at the RA. I was glad to go to the latter before going to the Bill Viola, there were many of Michelangelo’s sketches and drawings that related to the Viola exhibition. I became mesmorised by Viola’s work when a friend took me to see two of his installations at Saint Pauls Cathedral. The following are excerpts from the exhibitions catalogue written by Martin Clayton and Viola himself explaining Viola’s work in ways I only wish I could.
“Over a career of forty years at the forefront of video art, Bill Viola has explored with rare intensity the human journey from birth to death: the noise and tumult of existence, our search for transcendence and solace, the passing of the material body, and the possibility of rebirth. These fundamental themes of mortality, intamacy, deep pathos and resurrection are also strongly present in Michelangelo’s work: in his paintings, sculpture and poetry and especially in his finishes drawings, the focus of this exhibition. The cycle of life is here traced through these two artists, working in radically different medium half a millenium apart.” (Michel Clayton)
“My interest in the various image systems of the cultures of the world involves a search for the image that is not an image. This is why I am not interested in ‘realistic’ rendering. Sacred arts seems very close because of its symbolic nature. Its instrinsic interwoven meaning on other planes makes it more ‘conceptual’. I am not so much interested in the image whose source lies in the phenomenal world, but rather the image as an artefact, or result, or imprint, or even wholly determined by some inner realisation. It is the image of the inner state and as much must be completely accurate and realistic. This is an approach to images from an entirely opposite direction -from within rather than without…Perhaps one of the most difficult tasks of the contemporary artist is not to become swamped by the number of techno-tools rendering of the visible world (photo, film, video) and to create with these systems the ‘pure’ images of the symbolic.
Resurrection by Bill Viola
The images on the walls and screen are huge the sounds is deep and soulful. The majority of rooms I walked into I became almost as one Viola’s art. He uses sound and vision expertly to move it’s way into your very being without any mindful participation on the the viewers part, it is almost as if you become part of the installation, just by being present you become part of.
The art work that transported me most was in a huge dark room where five screens are showing and sounding powerful and mindfully slow water videos with one fire video. You have to see it for yourselves. I would go again. It moved me to tears. Viola seemed to be able to strip me of everything, my human body, my thoughts, my wanting mind and left my consciousness naked to float free with its feelings around the realm of timelessness.
Many years ago when I was on the path of sould searching and trying to find a meaning to life that would suit me and help me to understand why it is we are all here ( I must add that I have never found the answer!) I went with my friend Alison by car to Germany to visit a holy woman an Avatar (An avatar (Sanskrit: अवतार, IAST: avatāra), a concept in Hinduism that means “descent”, refers to the material appearance or incarnation of a deity on earth. The relative verb to “alight, to make one’s appearance” is sometimes used to refer to any guru or revered human being). We really didn’t know what to expect but we had heard that Mother Meera had extra-ordinary powers and sent healing around the world. So on our quest for enlightenment we drove to Schaumberg, found are bed and breakfast and prepared for a day of Darshan. On the second day something that I cannot easily describe happended to me. I literally became an explosion in the universe. This inner body, outer body, no body experience lives inside me to this day. Reading the literature after, it came as no surprise that this experience has happened to countless others. I tell you about this now as this is how I felt in this huge room of Viola’s ‘awesome’ genius masterpieces. I didn’t want to leave, I didn’t want to step back into my human body to be once again vunerble to the bombardment of our physical daily life and to have my mental plane polluted by the anxieties of daily life.
If you are in London I urge you to see this exhbition at the Royal Academy it is phenomenal.
I am with my friend Maggie in Pheonix and we are about to go to the art shop, so back down to earth and off we go. I shall write again later I have a lot of catching up to do.