Bill Viola: Observance

Video still showing a line of grieving mourners with a woman in black at the front

still from ‘Observance’, 2002
video installation, colour high-definition video on plasma display mounted on wall
Photo: Kira Perov
Accession No: WAG 2004.24

December 18, 2004 - April 17, 2005

Exhibition now finished

The American artist Bill Viola was born in 1951. He is a pioneer and leader in the field of video art, perhaps best known for his large-scale projected room installations. More recently he has made more intimate small-screen artworks, including those shown here. Viola has greatly expanded the potential of his chosen medium, bringing it to wider public attention.

This exhibition celebrated the purchase by Walker Art Gallery of Viola’s major work, ‘Observance’. Two additional pieces, ‘Mater’ and ‘Witness’, loaned from private collections, were included to complement ‘Observance’.

In 1998 Viola was one of several scholars invited to the Getty Research Institute in California to study ‘The Representation of the Passions.’ The participants examined how artists in the past dealt with the challenge of arousing and depicting extremes of emotion through their work. They also considered how contemporary artists could learn from this.

As a result, Viola created a series of new videos, collectively called 'The Passions'. In these, inspired by historical religious paintings, he explores the intensity of the human spirit. His method is to use extreme slow motion concentrated on the faces and body movements of his performers. The three works shown were part of 'The Passions'.


Observance was purchased for Walker Art Gallery’s collection in 2004 with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund

This exhibition has been organised with the assistance of Haunch of Venison and the Bill Viola Studio. We also thank the private collectors who have generously lent to this exhibition.

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