Rajesh Punj spots links between Bill Viola’s 1979 installation Moving Stillness (Mt. Rainer), on show at Blain Southern in London, and his ongoing concern with life’s fundamental truths
The impressive spread of Bill Viola works across England this autumn, coinciding with Frieze, warrants an audience with the emotional elasticity to devote themselves to his divine cannon of animated imagery and absorb the elemental truths embedded within it. Whereas Sculpture Park houses a striking body of technically sophiscated video works that span the last ten years, Blain Southern have concentrated entirely on lesser-known works that have to date been discussed more widely than they have been viewed.
The Vinyl Factory in Soho temporarily houses Viola’s 1982 sound installation The Talking Drum, which resonates throughout the Brewer Street car park like an animalistic chant, while the gallery has reconfigured the 1979 installation Moving Stillness (Mt. Rainer) for their central London space.
Darkened entirely, as is standard with Viola’s works, Moving Stillness (Mt. Rainer) reads like an animated postcard suspended above a pool of shallow water. This picturesque image of a monumental landmark, accompanied by the trappings of art — light and dark, sound and space — demonstrates Viola’s early interest in the ephemeral being reincarnated as art. As much as the image is a representation of the real, its relocation into a galley setting is further augmented by the periodic disturbances of the surface of the water directly beneath the projected image, which refracts the coloured light and reintroduces the representational, or unreal, back into the work.
As a meditative withdrawal from reality’s ugly truths, Viola continues to seek solace in a more reductive, almost cathartic space, as a redeemer for others’ sins. “The work is always about life and death, birth, light and darkness,” he explains. “Those are the fundamental ideas that we create, Kira Perov and I. And it has always been there in humanity. You really need to feel and think, and to stay with something, because there is so much in the world right now, it has become overwhelming. With ISIS and all those other kinds of things, it is unbelievable. So I think it is a really important moment for all of us, and not just here in England, or back home in Los Angeles, but on the planet. So that connects with us really deeply, and many of the pieces come out of some of those ideas.” •