Profiles Visual Arts

Bill Viola

Photograph by Stefania Carrozzini

Promoted by the Municipality of Milan-Culture, the BILL VIOLA exhibition is produced and organized by Palazzo Reale and Arthemisia, with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. A survey of works from Viola’s entire artistic career, it offers the public fifteen masterpieces in the halls at Palazzo Reale. Thoughtfully curated by Kira Perov, the artist’s wife and executive director of Bill Viola Studio.

Forty years of work are displayed through a careful selection of pieces, defining a unique event giving us the opportunity to reflect upon life. We are priviledged to immerse ourselves in an alternative world entirely different from the one we left behind at the entrance.

Visiting Viola’s exhibition is a wonderful experience and despite having seen his videos many times in museums and galleries (the first time I remember well at the James Cohan Gallery in New York, the impact is always remarkable. The monumentality of the work lies not only in its physical presence or in the skillful and complex use of digital technology, but rather in what the individual moving images evoke.

Viola’s works cannot simply be mindlessly seen; you need to stop and contemplate (possibly without distracting yourself by scrolling on your cell phone). For a moment Viola asks us to suspend the swirling flow of thoughts to enter a meditative alpha state, another frequency that transports us to a perceptive field where time is for listening and waiting. Sensory perception feeds on our presence, and to truly understand his language, you need to be truly present, to immerse yourself in light, color and sound. Viola’s entire work is a celebration of the gift of life, a permanent state of annunciation in which the states of mind and the passing stages of the human being are contemplated. Fragility, intimacy, death, passion, and love are fundamental factors in Viola’s videos in which time passes extremely slowly as if the artist wanted to stop it and enter another dimension.

Water and fire elements are often present in his installations, which represent the transitional boundary between illusion and reality, sometimes fading into each other, inverting the law of gravity like water descending upwards or fire becoming water.

The reference to Eastern philosophy and reincarnation is evident, so birth is not the beginning and death is not an end, as an old Chinese saying goes. Therefore, a visit to Viola’s exhibition cannot leave us indifferent, it forces us to profoundly reflect on his video images. In their hyperrealism, they exude classicism and sacredness, interpret our fears and address the problem of the transient mystery of life and death. Bill Viola’s art is a spiritual journey, that awakens the soul. G&S

Bill Viola: Milano Palazzo Reale Through June 25th, 2023

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