THE ROAD TO THE SPIRITUALITY OF BILL VIOLA

We propose a tour of some desacralised churches in Cuenca to start a journey that invites to withdrawal and the search for spirituality through the work of Bill Viola. The Church of San Andrés, the Convent of Las Angélicas (now turned into the Cruz Novillo Art Center) and the Church of San Miguel, to which the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art and the Museum of Holy Week joint, are the spaces that host 16 pieces of this creator in love with video art.

Frames from “Fire Woman”, 2005 (left) and “Tristan’s Ascension”, 2005 (right)

Bill Viola has become today a reference in this discipline, not only for the innovation of his proposals, with which he found his way when video creation was still little exploited; but also because throughout his career a constant discursive line stands which becomes omnipresent and permeates every single piece in an unmistakable way. Today, part of his work is articulated in a "Mystic Way" distributed in these five spaces of the old town of Cuenca. This project, which involves a physical and temporary tour, becomes the perfect match between the places of exhibition, the old centres dedicated to worship and prayer, and the message of his works, which seem conceived for this installation.

“The Quintet of the Silent”, 2000

The search and representation of the spirituality in Viola's creations draw directly from Renaissance classicism and the Judeo-Christian tradition that has marked the history of European art since the Middle Ages. Many of his pieces emulate religious paintings that we can easily relate to our most immediate cultural heritage, both for its composition and for the use of colour and light. The author approaches his works as pictures in movement. The influence of pictorialism is clear, but the technical flair in the making and the exquisiteness of the finishes transports us to a point, suspended in time and space, which transcends everything seen so far.

“Water Martyr”, 2004

One of the star pieces of this exhibition is entitled "Tristan’s Ascension." In it, the artist wants to represent the ascent of the soul in space with a sequence in a blue tone that conveys peace and serenity. The atmosphere anticipates the climax, the enveloping sound of water abstracts us from the world, the blackness that surrounds the spectator leads his sight towards the artwork that, hypnotic, traps us to contemplate -not to observe- this process. Mysticism almost becomes material.

“Emergence”, 2002

This work delves into the relation of modern man with his spirituality, an aspect today largely abandoned and relegated to the purely personal sphere of the individual. However, our cultural heritage is very much concerned with religion, not only because of the importance of our heritage for the immense collections of works focused on these themes and the architectural treasures of the European churches and cathedrals; but also because this legacy is still present in the construction of our way of thinking (and even feeling) collectively, in our relationships with our fellowmen, the conception of good or evil, and the burden today called morality that determines to a large extent our behaviour. Above all, Bill Viola reflects with an addictive, raw work that invites, while doing self-criticism, to recover that banished part of the individual. A mystical route to walk through without haste, with the dedication that deserves to think of oneself as a being.

 

One of the purposes of the “Art Madrid-Proyector’20” program was to offer the opportunity to get to know the work of some invited creators, and, through an interactive talk, allow the public to open a direct dialogue with them. For this reason, from February 12th to 14th, were organised three masterclasses at Medialab Prado with Patxi Araújo, Olga Diego and Lois Patiño, all authors who work with the moving image, but who approach their projects from a diametrically opposite perspective. With this agenda, we were able to discuss three essential lines of current video-creation: the fusion with technology and artificial intelligence, the shaping of performances for documentary purposes and video art with film overtones. We already had the opportunity to remember the session with Patxi Araújo and his site-specific work "Sherezade" created for the Medialab Prado façade. Today we will talk about the meeting we had with Olga Diego and Lois Patiño.

Olga diego, photo by Javier Adiego

Olga Diego’s masterclass has as title: “The flight as a creative matter”. Olga is a multidisciplinary artist who in recent years has focused her work on sculpture and performance or action art, which she later documents with photography and video. This last aspect is one of the most interesting for her when she reflects on how the transformation of the piece from an experiential format to a recorded one takes place, and how individuals have become used to consuming this class of less invasive final products, from a space of comfort that our private devices offer.

One of Olga's main lines of research is related to autonomous flight systems and the creation of artefacts capable of rising with little energy. Can one create a material lighter than air itself? This idea has led her to experiment with numerous scientific forms and concepts, as well as taking a historical journey through the beginnings of flight and the progress of humanity to invent devices capable of flying. It is not just about recovering the history of aviation, something that has a much more technological and commercial side, but to investigate the ideas, experiments and tests that analysed the behaviour of air, the dynamics of flows and the design of individual aerodynamic structures, a concern that the human being showed since the Renaissance, with Leonardo Da Vinci.

Olga Diego, photo by Mario Gutiérrez Cru

Olga recovers many of these concepts and applies them to her recent projects. In her latest proposals, she has also worked with inflatable figures, as an alternative to conducted flight, using plastic materials for its construction. Her last exhibition “The automatic garden”, which could be enjoyed at the Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art and the Lonja del Pescado Exhibition Hall, also in Alicante, is a gigantic installation made up of almost a hundred inflatable-electronic sculptures inspired by the beautiful, extravagant and suggestive characters from the Garden of Earthly Delights, by El Bosco. This cloud of humanoid and zoomorphic figures, which move and beat thanks to the electronic mechanisms that keep them permanently inflated, also portrays the excesses of man, his lack of concern for the invasion of the environment, the overexposure to plastic and the exploitation of natural resources. A composition that focuses on "sin", as an indirect message that was also conveyed in the work of El Bosco.

Masterclass of Lois Patiño. Photo by Marta Suárez-Mansilla

For his part, Lois Patiño's career is intimately connected to film work. “Time and image” was the title of his masterclass. His video pieces, whether brief or feature-long films contain a concern closely linked to film language, but on a path that leaves conventional narratives aside. Among the main motifs that occupy his work, Lois opts for more contemplative aesthetics, where the expressive power of the image itself is prioritised, without seeking too many added effects in conventional cinema through sound effects, dialogues or other devices.





This is why Lois's work is so poetic and lyrical. His proposals incorporate technological innovations to cause very concrete effects in his works, but all of this helps to delve into the issues that concern this creator and that, since his beginnings, have been present in his work.

Lois Patiño, foto de Mario Gutiérrez Cru

Lois Patiño has always been interested in the relationship of the individual with the landscape and how it can modulate our way of behaving in society and determine our idiosyncrasy. To what extent are we dependent on our environment? How is culture defined by its connection to the landscape? These and other questions plague the author's work in which many contemplative images abound.

In addition, Lois presented us in scoop the trailer for his latest feature-long film "Lúa vermella" that a few days after the masterclass was officially presented at the Berlinale - International Film Festival in Berlin 2020.