Renaissance Man: Bill Viola unveils final work for St Paul’s Cathedral
by Charlotte Harding

“Today we see the art of the past as nobody saw it before”. That phrase, from art critic John Berger, echoes resolutely with Bill Viola’s Mary, the highly anticipated, second and final large-scale video installation to reside permanently in St Paul’s Cathedral.

Bill Viola is unusual as an artist: born in the same moment as his medium, the video, he is one of the art form’s pioneers, using it to explore his profound interest in the old masters of both Eastern and Western art, as well as spiritual traditions including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism and Christian mysticism – which have all had an undeniable influence on his practice as an image-maker.

In Mary, Viola transposes biblical imagery into a modern setting, probing the artist’s career long fascination with the psyche and mystery of human experience and mortality. The work resembles a modern day digital predella – a triptych of vertically orientated plasma screens – examining the dualistic cycle of life to death through quasi-religious imagery through the evolving figure of the iconic Madonna.

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