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Video art by pioneer Bill Viola comes to Exeter’s RAMM

Published: 20 November 2023

Bill Viola, Still from Catherine’s Room (detail) Bill Viola, Still from Catherine’s Room (detail), 2001, ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland © Bill Viola Studio, Photo © Kira Perov

Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) presents ARTIST ROOMS Bill Viola in partnership with Tate and National Galleries of Scotland, bringing the internationally-renowned artist’s work to audiences in the south-west.

Bill Viola (born 1951) is one of the world’s leading video artists, considered pivotal in establishing video as a form of contemporary art. Since the early 1970s Viola has used video to explore universal human experiences such as birth, death and the unfolding of consciousness. His work is renowned for its precision and simplicity while fusing the influences of painting, photography and cinema. 

ARTIST ROOMS Bill Viola focuses on three intimate pieces from ‘The Passions’. Begun in 2000, this series is a sustained exploration of human emotions, suffering and transcendence. It is inspired in large part by Viola’s study of European religious paintings of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and his personal experience of loss with the death of his parents. 

The three artworks on display here in Exeter are silent meditations on time, ritual, and human emotion. They appear like moving paintings. Viola’s use of extreme slow motion enables him to explore shifts of human expression to convey the intensity and complexity of emotions. Surrender, 2001, depicts two figures in increasing states of anguish. In Four Hands 2001, three generations of a family are represented only by their hands, slowly performing gestures. Catherine’s Room, 2001, explores a woman undertaking a series of daily rituals across five screens.

Viola believes that art has an enlightening and redemptive function, saying: ‘Images have transformative powers within the individual self… art can articulate a kind of healing or growth or completion process.’

Lara Goodband, RAMM’s contemporary art curator, said: ‘Poignant and magnificent in equal measure, Viola’s work combines the drama of life and death with a quiet contemplation. Visitors to Exeter’s museum and art gallery will have the opportunity to see critically acclaimed contemporary art that references traditional devotion. I am sure it will appeal across the generations from art students to older RAMM visitors. This is the only opportunity to see beautifully presented artwork by this hugely influential artist in the region this year.’

Exeter City Council deputy leader Cllr. Laura Wright said: ‘The announcement of ARTIST ROOMS coming to RAMM is exciting news for Exeter. The museum plays such a significant role in bringing contemporary art to the city, and I’m delighted that works by an internationally renowned artist such as Bill Viola will be available for the community to see.’

ARTIST ROOMS Bill Viola - 27 January to 2 June 2024. Entry is free.

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