About the work




Unspoken (Silver & Gold)
Mixed media
152,4 x 152,4 cm 

The acute emotional states and the suffering expressed by the two people are a common theme in the series of works to which Unspoken (Silver & Gold)belongs. The series, The Passions, employs the biblical story to explore radical stages of emotional expressions performed on film in extreme slow motion. By stretching time Viola makes visible nuances of facial expressions that we would not otherwise have noticed.

Thus the work becomes an intense examination of a complex human physical and psychological condition. Although inspired by one of the principal stories of Christianity, still the work is timeless and eternal because of its universal theme.

Viola draws upon a number of art and culture historical inspirations. As the rest of the series, Unspoken (Silver & Gold) has striking similarities to the devotional pictures of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Moreover the use of the gold background refers directly to Christian icons in which gold symbolises the holy and celestial. Here the person is not merely depicted on the picture but is literally present: a paradox of the utmost importance to the icon's sacred status. Furthermore the gold panel refers to the golden light in the paintings of Rembrandt van Rijn, and the portrait recalls Rembrandt's late self-portraits.

The silver coated panel alludes to one of the crucial relics of Christian mysticism: the Veil of St. Veronica which carries the mark of Christ's face. The portrait on the silver panel bears great resemblance to the grey toned imprint of the face of Christ visible on the cloth. Thus the onlooker is compelled to contemplate the relationship between worldly suffering and the hope symbolised by the Passion and the Resurrection.

The manifest Christian references are an indication of Viola's artistic outlook. The early Christian images not only convey aesthetic deliberations but are first and foremost sacred, didactic and moral objects – a perception of art's ethical dimension that Viola shares. He has reflected: "Art can have a healing function. What is on the screen can be part of a life process that enters the body, and you can take these things and use them."

Viola has been working on The Passions since 2000. The series came about following a stint at the Getty Research Institute in the USA in 1998 when Viola and a group of art historians researched the subject "Representations of the Passion."

Bill Viola's art in general
The themes in Viola's art are typically ever significant subjects such as the universal, human experience: birth, growth, death. Viola places emphasis on the sensory experience as a means to self-knowledge and on how the encounter with the artwork can afford us a deeper social and spiritual awareness.

Viola explores the nature of the mind as a psychological, physiognomic and spiritual phenomenon, including the question of the relationship between body and soul. This interest brings him to draw inspiration and knowledge from science, religion and philosophy. The religiously founded inspiration incorporates as diverse religions as Christian Mysticism, Hinduism and Islamic Sufism with which he looks into how questions derived from these complicated entities can be expressed visually.
With his sensuous and high-tech video installations Viola wants to convey his interest in human emotions and memories and his wish for a meaningful whole.

His works are characterised by the highest perfection with regards to image and sound. This applies to both his large video installations, completely surrounding the onlooker, and the lesser tableaux, such as ARKEN's work.

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