Bill Viola’s (b.1951) practice has continuously transformed our understanding of video as an art form, expanding its technological scope and historical relevance, and enlightened audiences across the world of the fundamental truths that underpin human existence. Brooke Lynn McGowan curates a new exhibition of works by the video pioneer at Leila Heller Gallery, Dubai. The Vast: Mirrors of the Mind, brings together pieces from the Sufi-inspired Transfigurations series (2007-2008), desert-based musings on existence from the Mirage series (2012), and the hauntingly infinite fluidity of the Water Portraits series (2013).
This presentation reveals to the viewer the key thematic relationships in Viola’s oeuvre, which include portrayals of desert and water as emblematic of his explorations of the voyage of life and death, consciousness and reflection, East to West. Through these pieces, Viola explores the limits of perception at the threshold between the conscious and the unconscious mind. For the artist, the desert – and its vast, arid landscape – is the mirror of the mind and a suspended place between the physical and the psychological.
The Mirage series examines the layers of reality and illusion in the physical world of the desert expanse. It includes Lifespans (2012) and Walking on the Edge (2012) – two work that investigate the limits of our understanding of the position of the human in the natural order, both physically and metaphysically. The artist describes Walking on the Edge: “This work represents the inevitable separation of father and son as they take separate paths in their life’s journey.”
Symbolic connotations of the passage of birth, death, and renewal are apparent in pieces from the Transfigurations series and Water Portraits series. The former was created in concert with the artist’s installation for the 52nd Venice Biennale, Ocean Without a Shore. Like the couples on a perpetual journey in the desert, Lenny (2008) and Howard (2008), two Transfigurations series, each portray figures on a voyage that is interminable because it is eternal. Three of Water Portrait pieces are presented in this exhibition: Sharon (2013), Blake’s Dream (2013), and Madison (2013), each portray a woman, a young man, and a little girl completely submerged beneath the water, moved only by the gentle rippling of the current.
Bill Viola, The Vast: Mirrors of the Mind, until 22 April, Leila Heller Gallery, Dubai.
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1. Bill Viola, Walking on the Edge, 2012. Courtesy of the artist, Leila Heller Gallery and Blain and Southern.