1951 · United States
Bill Viola is an internationally recognised contemporary American artist, who has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital and essential art form. In a career spanning over forty years, he has created immersive video installations, sound environments and flat panel video pieces which make use of state-of-the-art technologies and are distinguished by their simplicity and directness.
Born in 1951 in New York, United States, Viola studied experimental studio art at Syracuse University. He has travelled and worked in a number of countries including the Solomon Islands, Java, Bali, Tunisia and Japan. He is married to cultural arts director Kira Perov, with whom he shares a lifelong collaboration working and travelling together. Viola currently lives and works in Long Beach, California. As one of the pioneers of video art, he is one of the few new media artists who began their career in the 1970s to break through to mainstream audiences.
Viola’s video works are often impactful and immersive experiences. Due to his extensive travels across the globe, his work focuses on universal human experiences that draw from both Eastern and Western philosophies and traditions. Common themes in his work are spirituality, birth, death, perception and self-knowledge. Viola’s use of ultra-slow motion video allows his pieces to exhibit a painterly quality, and invites the viewer to sink into the images and themes within his works. Pieces such as 2014’s ‘Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water)’ , in which four video screens show individual figures being slowly overtaken by natural forces, displays a theme of martyrdom for deep seated beliefs through simple and effective imagery. ‘Martyrs’ was displayed as a site specific installation at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, adding to its commentary on spiritual beliefs and human experience.
Viola’s work continues to be shown in museums and galleries worldwide and is part of many distinguished collections. Today, his works are in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Modern gallery in London. In 2019, the Royal Academy of Art in London held a large scale exhibition of Viola’s work alongside drawings by Michelangelo, titled ‘Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth’.