Posts Tagged ‘immortality

24
Mar
19

Exhibition: ‘Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth’ at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

26th January – 31st March 2019

 

Bill Viola. 'Nantes Triptych' 1992

 

Bill Viola (American, born 1951)
Nantes Triptych (still)
1992
Video/sound installation
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
Photo: Kira Perov

 

 

Bill Viola (American, born 1951)
Nantes Triptych (extract)
1992
Video/sound installation
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio

 

 

Far from heaven

On the surface (and there’s a key word), this exhibition pairs these two artists together as a form of immaculate concept(ion).

“Though working five centuries apart and in radically different media, these artists share a deep preoccupation with the nature of human experience and existence. Bill Viola / Michelangelo creates an artistic exchange between these two artists… It [the exhibition] proposes a dialogue between the two artists, considering Viola as an heir to a long tradition of spiritual and affective art, which makes use of emotion as a means of connecting viewers with its subject matter.” (Press release)

At the heart of both artists work is an exploration of the body as a vessel for the eternal soul, where the use of the body gives shape (through fundamental human experiences and emotions) to spirituality, and where both artists consider metaphysical questions about the nature of existence and reality.

One of the successes of the exhibition (when seen from afar) is the undoubted connection across time, space and culture between two human beings investigating what it is to be human: as Viola puts it, an understanding and awareness of “a deeper tradition, an undercurrent stretching across time and cultures… the ancient spiritual tradition that is concerned with self-knowledge.” In Viola’s work it is an essence of self reflection, the self reflection in water of the first humans, that recognition of self – that idea of self knowledge that is built into water – and his use of water (and other elements such as fire) as an immersive, nurturing, entombing, womb death environment in many of his video installations, that provides the impetus for his investigation.

But I have a nagging doubt about this pairing.

Viola’s work seems to be of a different order (of being) than that of Michelangelo. Even though Viola’s work connects the viewer to its subject matter through feeling and emotion, these feelings and emotions are viewed from the outside (Man Searching for Immortality / Woman Searching for Eternity). The camera objectifies this theatre of creation for our viewing pleasure. The video installations are performances which seem to be of a different kingdom to me (performance, theatre, spectacle) – whereas Michelangelo’s drawings seem to emanate from within. Not chemical, not organic, but something else which is so deeply embodied that they seem to come close to enlightenment.

How Viola fits into the great catalogue – we can only take in by what he tells us. And in time.

Because this spiritual investigation is mostly seen “through a glass darkly”, sometimes it has a, scent of being, not genuine – sometimes because we are all imperfect artists – but sometimes, through someone like Hilma af Klint, or Hokusai or, in this case, Michelangelo (“Michael angel”) it is much much more transparent… and closer to the surface. Am I making sense?

Sometimes they are about something I may somewhat understand in this lifetime (Viola) and sometimes they are about something that I don’t believe has been “released” to humanity fully. Perhaps a form of internal esoteric knowledge that may eventually be revealed to humanity. A mystery (derived from ‘mystic’ or ‘mysticism’ from the Greek μυω, meaning “to conceal”) which may reveal truths that surpass the powers of natural reason, a truth that transcends the created intellect.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

 

PS. The poem below has the terror of the sublime. A perfect picture of detachment and very nearly a complete picture of enlightenment. Is the human condition different from all other conditions? – that is the $64,000 question – if you say “no”, then this is a true poem. And of course, from the depths of the soul, who is having this conversation?

.
Many thankx to the Royal Academy of Arts for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Is it far to go?

Is it far to go?
A step – no further.
Is it hard to go?
Ask the melting snow,
The eddying feather.

What can I take there?
Not a hank, not a hair.
What shall I leave behind?
Ask the hastening wind,
The fainting star.

Shall I be gone long?
For ever and a day.
To whom there belong?
Ask the stone to say,
Ask my song.

Who will say farewell?
The beating bell.
Will anyone miss me?
That I dare not tell –
Quick, Rose, and kiss me.

 

Cecil Day-Lewis

Cecil Day-Lewis (1904-1972) was appointed poet laureate by Queen Elizabeth II. He was an Irish poet and essayist, and a writer of mystery novels under the pen name of Nicholas Blake. He is the father of the actor Daniel Day-Lewis. The third stanza of this poem serves as the epitaph on his gravestone. “Rose” refers to Rosamond Lehmann, the British novelist who was his lover when he wrote this verse in the 1940’s.

 

 

This exhibition pairs Bill Viola’s powerful installations with rarely-seen drawings by Michelangelo. Journey through the cycle of life in our immersive and unparalleled show.

Michelangelo is best known for the Sistine Chapel and for his large sculptures. Yet his smaller, more intimate drawings take us closer to the spiritual and emotional power of his work. They were created for his private use, or as gifts of love, and would soon become known as “drawings the likes of which was never seen”.

In 2006, the pioneering video artist Bill Viola saw a collection of these works at Windsor Castle. He was moved by their ability to convey fundamental human experiences and emotions, and by Michelangelo’s use of the body to give shape to spirituality.

Viola’s large-scale video installations are likewise works of profound emotional impact. They combine sound and moving image to create absorbing works which slow us down and invite us to experience and reflect. These works are shown alongside Michelangelo drawings, which are on display in the UK for the first time in almost a decade.

This exhibition – created in close collaboration with Bill Viola Studio – is a unique opportunity to experience two artists, born centuries apart, in a new light.

Text from the RA website

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing:

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) LEFT
The Resurrection
c. 1532
Black chalk
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) CENTRE
The Risen Christ
c. 1532-3
Black chalk on paper
37.2 x 22.1 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) RIGHT
The Resurrection
c. 1532-33
Black chalk

Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) 'The Resurrection' c. 1532

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) LEFT
The Resurrection
c. 1532
Black chalk
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

 

 

In the early 1530s Michelangelo drew the Resurrection of Christ more than a dozen times, for unknown reasons. Here he presents the transition to the eternal as a triumphant release, Christ as an explosion of energy amid the sepulchral gloom of the terrestrial sphere. The soldiers are prisoners of their earthly existence, lost in a death-like sleep, or recoiling from Christ in confusion at a sight beyond their comprehension.

Wall text

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti. 'The Risen Christ' c. 1532-3

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) CENTRE
The Risen Christ
c. 1532-3
Black chalk on paper
37.2 x 22.1 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

 

In no other work by Michelangelo is the Resurrection expressed with such exuberance. Christ is long and virile, his muscular form modelled with tiny stokes of chalk, as highly finished as any of Michelangelo’s mythological drawings. It is perhaps paradoxical that a drawing of the triumph of the soul should so strongly emphasise Christ’s body, but his almost polished torso reflects the radiant light with a glory that transcends reality.

Wall text

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) 'The Resurrection' c. 1532

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) RIGHT
The Risen Christ
c. 1532-3
Black chalk on paper
37.2 x 22.1 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing:

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) LEFT
Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John
c. 1560-64
Black chalk, white heightening and a touch of red chalk
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) RIGHT
Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John
c. 1560-64
Black chalk with white heightening
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) 'Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John' c. 1560-64

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) LEFT
Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John
c. 1560-64
Black chalk, white heightening and a touch of red chalk
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

 

 

To the right, the hunched figure of St John is list in desolation, his arms tightly folded as if shivering, his mouth open in a pain both physical and mental. The patch of red chalk at Christ’s feet is probably deliberate, symbolic of the sacrificial blood that was shed on the Cross.

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) 'Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John' c. 1560-64

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) RIGHT
Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John
c. 1560-64
Black chalk with white heightening
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John, c. 1504-05 at centre. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti. 'The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John' c.1504-05

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564)
The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John (Taddei Tondo)
c. 1504-05
Marble relief
107 x 107 x 22 cm
Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bequeathed by Sir George Beaumont, 1830
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Limited

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London with Michelangelo’s The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John (Taddei Tondo) c. 1504-05 at left, and Bill Viola’s Nantes Triptych, 1992 at right. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, Nantes Triptych, 1992. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti. 'The Lamentation over the Dead Christ' c. 1540

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564)
The Lamentation over the Dead Christ
c. 1540
Black chalk
28.1 x 26.8 cm
The British Museum, London. Exchanged with Colnaghi, 1896, 1896,0710.1
© The Trustees of the British Museum

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

In January 2019, the Royal Academy of Arts brings together the work of the pioneering video artist, Honorary Royal Academician Bill Viola (b. 1951), with drawings by Michelangelo (1475-1564). Though working five centuries apart and in radically different media, these artists share a deep preoccupation with the nature of human experience and existence. Bill Viola / Michelangelo creates an artistic exchange between these two artists and is a unique opportunity to see major works from Viola’s long career and some of the greatest drawings by Michelangelo, together for the first time. It is the first exhibition at the Royal Academy largely devoted to video art and has been organised in partnership with Royal Collection Trust.

The exhibition comprises 12 major video installations by Viola, from 1977 to 2013, being shown alongside 15 works by Michelangelo. They include 14 highly finished drawings, considered to be the high point of Renaissance drawing, as well as the Royal Academy’s Taddei Tondo. It proposes a dialogue between the two artists, considering Viola as an heir to a long tradition of spiritual and affective art, which makes use of emotion as a means of connecting viewers with its subject matter. It also aims to recapture the spiritual and emotional core of Michelangelo, beyond the awesome grandeur of his works.

Viola first encountered the works of the Italian Renaissance in Florence in the 1970s where he spent some of his formative years. A residency at the J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, in 1998 renewed his interest in Renaissance art and in the shared affinities with his own practice. In 2006, Viola visited the Print Room at Windsor Castle to see Michelangelo’s exquisite drawings, which he had known in reproduction since his youth. The meeting proved a catalyst for the exhibition, which evolved as a conversation between Viola and Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings at Royal Collection Trust. Rather than setting up direct comparisons between the artists or suggesting that Michelangelo has been an instrumental influence on Viola’s work, the exhibition examines the affinities between them, bringing together specific works to explore resonances in their treatment of the fundamental questions: the nature of being, the transience of life, and the search for a greater meaning beyond mortality.

Viola stated, “Through my travels and experiences first in Florence, then primarily in non-Western cultures, and in combination with my readings in ancient philosophy and religion, I began to be aware of a deeper tradition, an undercurrent stretching across time and cultures… the ancient spiritual tradition that is concerned with self-knowledge.” Throughout his career, Viola has experimented with large-scale video installations; he is one of the first artists to have conceived video on an immersive architectural scale. He has increasingly utilised his medium’s fundamental elements – light, sound and time – to create visceral works that consider metaphysical questions about the nature of existence and reality. Unusually for video, they give shape to inner states of being rather than mirroring the world around us.

The exhibition presents Michelangelo’s works as more than examples of genius and virtuosity, revealing a personality that was frequently vulnerable. The drawings included were executed in the last 35 years of his life, some as gifts and expressions of love for close friends, others as private meditations on his own mortality. Religious imagery of the Virgin and Child, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection reflect on the presence of death and the eternal. In others, references to Classical mythology act as metaphors for the human condition. At their heart, as with Viola’s work, is an exploration of the body as a vessel for the eternal soul.

The exhibition is conceived as an immersive journey through the cycles of life, exploring the transience and tumult of existence and the possibility of rebirth. It begins and ends with a pairing of works that reflect on a central paradox: the presence of death in life. Michelangelo’s The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John the Baptist, c. 1504-05, known as the Taddei Tondo, depicts the Baptist holding a fluttering bird from which the infant Christ recoils, the scene heralding his eventual sacrifice on the Cross. It is being displayed alongside Viola’s The Messenger, 1996 (Bill Viola Studio), which uses the metaphor of water to depict the eternal cycle of birth, life and death. The theme is being further explored in drawings relating to the Virgin and Child, as well as the Lamentation, c. 1540 (British Museum, London), which is being shown facing Viola’s Nantes Triptych, 1992 (Bill Viola Studio), three screens that individually portray a woman giving birth, a figure floating in a mysterious half-light, and Viola’s own mother on her deathbed. Viola stated, “It is the awareness of our own mortality that defines the nature of human beings”.

The exhibition continues with a series of installations by Viola that reflect on the nature of human experience, as one set by moral and ethical choices, besieged by fears and ultimately experienced in solitude. At the centre of the exhibition is Michelangelo’s extraordinary Presentation Drawings of the 1530s (loaned by Her Majesty The Queen, Royal Collection, London), which he produced as gifts for Tommaso de’ Cavalieri, a young Roman nobleman for whom he developed a deep love. Demonstration pieces relating to the craft of drawing with chalk, they also explore complex myths and Neoplatonic concepts, and were created as expressions of devotion towards their recipient. They include the Tityus, 1532, which acts as an allegory for the opposed forms of love in Neoplatonic philosophy: the punishment of base lust devoid of spiritual love. Further drawings by Michelangelo explore similar allegorical struggles in life, from the labours of Hercules to the fall of Phaeton. These are being shown in opposition to the quiet stillness of Viola’s Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity, 2013 (Bill Viola Studio). Life-size images of an ageing man and woman are projected onto two black granite slabs, showing them slowly examining every inch of their naked bodies by torchlight, unable to hide from their earthly state.

The final galleries include a series of works that more directly consider mortality and the possibility of rebirth. Among them are Michelangelo’s most poignant drawings, two Crucifixions from the final years of his life. The exhibition concludes two of Viola’s most majestic works; the monumental projections, Fire Woman, 2005, (Bill Viola Studio), and Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Waterfall Under a Mountain), 2005 (Bill Viola Studio). They depict bodies falling and rising out of view, in different ways conjuring the body’s final journey and the passage of the spirit, in obscurity or in glory.

Press release from the RA Cited 23/02/2019

 

 

 

Bill Viola (American, born 1951)
Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall) (extract)
2005
Video/sound installation
Performer: John Hay
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
Photo: Kira Perov

 

Bill Viola. 'Tristan's Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall)' 2005

 

Bill Viola (American, born 1951)
Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall) (still)
2005
Video/sound installation
Performer: John Hay
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
Photo: Kira Perov

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola’s Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall) 2005 (still). Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Bill Viola, Fire Woman and Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall), St Carthage’s Church, Parkville, Melbourne

 

Bill Viola. 'Fire Woman' 2005

 

Bill Viola (American, born 1951)
Fire Woman (still)
2005
Video/sound installation
Performer: Robin Bonaccorsi
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
Photo: Kira Perov

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola’s Fire Woman 2005 (still). Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, The Veiling, 1995. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, Five Angels for the Millenium, 2001. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Bill Viola, “Departing Angel”, from Five Angels for the Millennium 2001 (excerpt)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, The Dreamers, 2013. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

The Dreamers (2013) consists of seven individual screens, which depict underwater portraits of people who appear to be sleeping. Accompanied by the gentle sounds of water, the viewer is led to feel as if they themselves are submerged with these figures. In this spiritual, immersive subterranean environment, ultimate interpretation is left for the viewer to define, through the lens of their own experiences. (excerpt)

 

 

Bill Viola, The Dreamers (excerpt)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity, 2013. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Bill Viola, Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity, 2013 (excerpt)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, The Sleep of Reason, 1988. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, Slowly Turning Narrative, 1992. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Bill Viola, The Messenger 1996 (excerpt)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, The Messenger, 1996. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House, Piccadilly,
London, W1J 0BD

Opening hours:
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Friday 10am – 10pm

Royal Academy of Arts website

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18
Aug
17

Exhibition: ‘Joel-Peter Witkin – Photographs 1980-2016’ at William Mora Galleries, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 3rd – 25th August 2017

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'Arms Broken By A Window, New Mexico' 1980

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
Arms Broken By A Window, New Mexico
1980
Tirage argentique
64 x 64 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

 

“I think this whole conversation can be compressed into one thing. It’s that life is joyous and wonderful and it’s meant for us to grow as individuals, as citizens, as human beings and spirits. The terrible thing is that we have a choice and usually the negative choice is the easy way. That’s what we regret because we know we’ve harmed and we’re not meant to harm. We’re meant to heal and grow and share and if I had a knife at my neck or a gun to my head I’d say the same thing.”

.
Joel-Peter Witkin

 

 

Magical momenti mori

This will be short and sweet because I on holiday in Europe.

It was a privilege to visit William Mora Galleries to see the first ever exhibition in Australia of the work of the renowned American photographer Joel-Peter Witkin. To be able to spend time with these photographic constructions in such a tranquil space truly was a blessing.

While it is possible to read all sorts of influences into the work – running from Diane Arbus (masks) through Surrealism, collage and homages to still-life “Vanitas” style paintings from the 1600s, the ‘Storyville’ prostitue photos of E.J. Bellocq, carte-de-visite and the conversant arched form of the window cut-outs of Victorian photo albums, mythological themes, ars moriendi, post-mortem photography, et al – what makes Witkin’s photographs so unique is that they could only, ever, be the work of this artist. When you look at these beautiful photographs they bear his unmistakable signature.

Witkin is able to construct in a performative space placed before the lens, engaging narratives which often have an allusive mystery embedded in them. I for one do not pretend to understand all that is going on within the images in terms of their symbolism – but this is not necessary. What I can feel is the profound love and affection that the artist has towards his subjects and his craft. Witkin is not afraid: of life, of death, of ambiguities of sexuality, identity and disability, that confront each and every one of us throughout life. He is not afraid to make bold moves in his art, scratching into the surface of the negative, bleaching into the print, collaging over the top of the base print, never afraid of high key moments in the mise-en-scène, all to create the affect that he wants in order to tell the story. He directs his imagination through the presence and physicality of the final print.

Witkin’s allegories, his mediations on the universality of death as memento mori, or meme/n/to (a meme is an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another, as in the multiple rituals of death) mori, remind people of the fragility of their lives and how vain are the glories of earthly life. His imaginative renditions posit this: no matter one’s station in life, the Dance of Death unites all.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Anna and William Mora for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

 

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)
‘Leda and the Swan’

 

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'The Great Masturbator And The Country He Rode In On, New Mexico' 2017

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
The Great Masturbator And The Country He Rode In On, New Mexico
2017
Tirage argentique
35 x 32 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

 

“Trump is a child living in a narcissistic hollow man – with the power to destroy the world…

Trump is not qualified to be President. His election to that office represents the ignorance of the American electorate and the corruption of our political representatives. Ours is not an intellectual culture in which thought and reason are unselfishly presented. It is a “Pop Culture” of materialistic escapism which has elected an autocratic, draft dodging, corrupt business man, who has made this country the laughing stock of the world.

The Great Masturbator And The Country He Rode In On took several months to create. The Trump model was willing to pose nude. In his right hand is the nuclear button. On his extended left arm is written: “The Only Conquest Left Is Ivanka.” On his right arm, he is wearing the symbol of Communism, the secret agenda Russia is promoting today under Putin. And for reasons yet unknown, all of us look forward to know why Trump is Putin’s marionette.

I made this photograph because I am involved in mankind. As a citizen of this formally great country, and as an artist, I made this photograph to help defeat the Republican party in the 2018 elections for its cowardice in putting their party ahead of their country. Where are our elected leaders, the Lincoln’s, the Kennedy’s of today? Where are our citizen’s hero’s, the César Chávez’s, the Martin Luther King’s, the Rosa Parks of today?

What ever happened to morality, courage and integrity?”

Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Installation photographs

 

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Installation view of the exhibition 'Joel-Peter Witkin - Photographs 1980-2016' at William Mora Galleries, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Joel-Peter Witkin - Photographs 1980-2016' at William Mora Galleries, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Joel-Peter Witkin - Photographs 1980-2016' at William Mora Galleries, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Joel-Peter Witkin - Photographs 1980-2016' at William Mora Galleries, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Joel-Peter Witkin - Photographs 1980-2016' at William Mora Galleries, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Joel-Peter Witkin - Photographs 1980-2016' at William Mora Galleries, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Joel-Peter Witkin - Photographs 1980-2016' at William Mora Galleries, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Joel-Peter Witkin - Photographs 1980-2016' at William Mora Galleries, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Joel-Peter Witkin – Photographs 1980-2016 at William Mora Galleries, Melbourne
© Dr Marcus Bunyan, William Mora Galleries, Melbourne and the artist

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'Man With Dog, Mexico' 1990

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
Man With Dog, Mexico
1990
Tirage argentique
95 x 72 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'Self Portrait Reminiscent As A Self Portrait As A Vanity' 1995

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
Self Portrait Reminiscent As A Self Portrait As A Vanity
1995
Tirage argentique
42 x 34 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'Beauty Had Three Nipples' 1998

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
Beauty Had Three Nipples
1998
Tirage argentique
55 x 63 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'Monsieur Baguette As Orpheo' 2004

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
Monsieur Baguette As Orpheo
2004
Tirage argentique
72 x 65 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

 

Orpheus is a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. The major stories about him are centered on his ability to charm all living things and even stones with his music, his attempt to retrieve his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld, and his death at the hands of those who could not hear his divine music. As an archetype of the inspired singer, Orpheus is one of the most significant figures in the reception of classical mythology in Western culture, portrayed or alluded to in countless forms of art and popular culture including poetry, film, opera, music, and painting.

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'Mother Of The Future' 2004

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
Mother Of The Future
2004
Tirage argentique
67 x 76 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'Ars Moriendi' 2007

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
Ars Moriendi
2007
Tirage argentique
66 x 71 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

 

“It happened on a Sunday when my mother was escorting my twin brother and me down the steps of the tenement where we lived. We were going to church. While walking down the hallway to the entrance of the building, we heard an incredible crash mixed with screaming and cries for help. The accident involved three cars, all with families in them. Somehow, in the confusion, I was no longer holding my mother’s hand. At the place where I stood at the curb, I could see something rolling from one of the overturned cars. It stopped at the curb where I stood. It was the head of a little girl. I bent down to touch the face, to speak to it – but before I could touch it someone carried me away.” ~ Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Ars Moriendi

The Ars moriendi (“The Art of Dying”) are two related Latin texts dating from about 1415 and 1450 which offer advice on the protocols and procedures of a good death, explaining how to “die well” according to Christian precepts of the late Middle Ages. It was written within the historical context of the effects of the macabre horrors of the Black Death 60 years earlier and consequent social upheavals of the 15th century. It was very popular, translated into most West European languages, and was the first in a western literary tradition of guides to death and dying. There was originally a “long version” and a later “short version” containing eleven woodcut pictures as instructive images which could be easily explained and memorised. …

Ars moriendi consists of six chapters:

  1. The first chapter explains that dying has a good side, and serves to console the dying man that death is not something to be afraid of
  2. The second chapter outlines the five temptations that beset a dying man, and how to avoid them. These are lack of faith, despair, impatience, spiritual pride and avarice
  3. The third chapter lists the seven questions to ask a dying man, along with consolation available to him through the redemptive powers of Christ’s love
  4. The fourth chapter expresses the need to imitate Christ’s life
  5. The fifth chapter addresses the friends and family, outlining the general rules of behaviour at the deathbed
  6. The sixth chapter includes appropriate prayers to be said for a dying man

Allegorically the images depicted the contest between angels and demons over the fate of the dying man. In his dying agony his soul emerges from his mouth to be received by one of a band of angels. Common themes portrayed by illustrators include skeletons, the Last Judgement, corpses, and the forces of good and evil battling over souls. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'Bad Student' 2007

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
Bad Student
2007
Tirage argentique
86 x 70 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'Myself As A Dead Clown' 2007

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
Myself As A Dead Clown
2007
Tirage argentique
93 x 99 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'La Giovanissima' 2007

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
La Giovanissima
2007
Tirage argentique
87 x 76 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'The Scale, Bogota' 2008

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
The Scale, Bogota
2008
Tirage argentique
77 x 88 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

 

I was born and grew up with this sexual controversy enduring ridicule and insults and humiliations. My family took advantage of me for being joto. And I’m not to blame for being born so tired of so much reproach I left my house to study and fight against everything. I made my life and I’m happy. I hope you catch me sometime and to Saint Sebastian I thank that I left with the good of this operation that changed my life. Bogota 2008

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'Model At The End Of Art School' 2009

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
Model At The End Of Art School
2009
Tirage argentique
72 x 65 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

 

Beauty for some provides escape,
Who gain a happiness in eyeing
The gorgeous buttocks of the ape
Or Autumn sunsets exquisitely dying.

Julian Huxley (1887-1975)
‘Ninth Philosopher’s Song’ (1920)

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'The Paris Triad : Venus in Chains, Paris' 2010

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
The Paris Triad : Venus in Chains, Paris
2010
Tirage argentique
123 x 95 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'The Green Princess, Paris' 2011

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
The Green Princess, Paris
2011
Tirage argentique
82 x 73 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'A History Of The White World' 2011

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
A History Of The White World
2011
Tirage argentique
67 x 76 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'Presenter Of The End Of Time Award' 2013

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
Presenter Of The End Of Time Award
2013
Tirage argentique
113 x 103 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-) 'Imperfect Thirst' 2016

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, 1939-)
Imperfect Thirst
2016
Tirage argentique
67 x 54 cm
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon and William Mora Galleries
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

 

The symbolism of food and drink [in European painting 1400-1800] has roots in classical literature. Fruits, nuts, herbs, and grain are discussed in treatises on farming and natural history, and appear widely in mythology as attributes of gods and goddesses – grapes for Bacchus, god of wine; a sheaf of corn or wheat for Ceres, the grain goddess – and in metaphors for virtue and vice. Early religious writings such as the Bible and the Apocrypha, and Christian texts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance are also rich in this imagery, often borrowing from pagan symbolism and occasionally supplanting it. The pomegranate, for example, is depicted in mythological paintings as an attribute of Venus and a symbol of desire, fertility – because of its many seeds – and marriage, but appears as frequently in sacred images of the Virgin and Child. There are several legends of the pomegranate’s creation, contributing to its symbolic potency; according to one, it grew out of blood streaming from the wounded genitals of the lustful Acdestis. The pomegranate is perhaps best known, however, for its fateful role in the myth of Proserpina. Ovid tells in the Metamorphoses of Proserpina’s abduction by Pluto, ruler of the Underworld. Proserpina’s mother, Ceres, secured her release from Hades, but, before leaving Proserpina, ate the seeds from a pomegranate and, because she had consumed food in the Underworld, was compelled to spend part of every year there. Proserpina’s cyclical descent to Hades and rise to Earth was believed to bring about the changing of seasons, and the pomegranate was thus seen as a symbol of resurrection and immortality.

Jennifer Meagher. “Food and Drink in European Painting, 1400-1800,” on The Met website [Online] Cited 06/08/2017

 

 

William Mora Galleries
60 Tanner Street, Richmond
Victoria, Australia 3121

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Friday 10am – 4pm

William Mora Galleries website

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15
Mar
11

Exhibition: ‘The Immortal Alexander the Great: The myth, the reality, his journey, his legacy’ at Hermitage Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 18th September 2010 – 18th March 2011

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What beautiful artefacts!

Many thankx to the Hermitage Amsterdam for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Black-figure hydria: Achilles with Hector’s body
Attica, Leagros group, Antiopa Painter
c. 510 BC
Earthenware
h 49 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

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Head of Alexander (fragment of a figure)
Asia Minor, Bithynia (?)
Roman copy, 1st century BC, after Greek original
175-150 BC
Fine-grained marble
h 6 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

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Cameo. Twin portrait of Ptolemy II Philadelphos and Arsinoe II (Gonzaga Cameo)
Alexandria
3rd century BC
Three-layer sardonyx
15.7 x 11.8 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

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Figure of Cleopatra VII
Egypt
51-30 BC
Basalt
h 104 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

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Cuirass breastplate
Italy
Late 16th century
Steel, bone, wrought and carved
h 42 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

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“No other king from antiquity has such a powerful appeal to the imagination as Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). Nor other king has been so often cited and depicted as an example.

The exhibition The Immortal Alexander the Great will be on view from 18 September 2010 until 18 March 2011 in the Hermitage Amsterdam, with over 350 masterpieces, including the famous Gonzaga cameo from the State Museum the Hermitage in St Petersburg. This is the first time that any Dutch museum has devoted an exhibition to Alexander the Great, his journey to the East, and the influence of Hellenism. The exhibition spans a period of almost 2500 years. In the Hermitage Amsterdam, the ‘immortal’ Alexander will be brought to life for six months.

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Alexander was born in 356 BC as the son of King Philip II of Macedonia. In boyhood he was taught by Aristotle, who would be an abiding influence on him. At twenty years of age Alexander succeeded to the throne, following his father’s assassination. Two years later he embarked on the great expedition that would seal his fame. His conquests brought him into contact with numerous countries and cultures: Syria, Egypt, Persia, Bactria, and India. He founded new cities wherever he went, naming many of them Alexandria. His arrival had a lasting impact on local architecture, art, language, and ways of life: in the course of time they assimilated and displayed Greek influence, a process that became known as Hellenism.

The Greek sphere of influence was vast: it extended from Asia Minor to India, from Egypt to Mongolia. Alexander’s name and fame has endured down to the present day.

The exhibition in the Hermitage Amsterdam gives a picture of Alexander himself and of the great cultural and artistic changes that followed in the train of his conquests.

The exhibition begins with the myth of Alexander. Images in paintings dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, tapestries, and decorative arts display his heroic deeds and conquests. Impressive examples include paintings by Pietro Antonio Rotari (Alexander the Great and Roxana) and Sebastiano Ricci (Apelles painting Campaspe), and a tapestry depicting The Family of Darius before Alexander the Great.

The exhibition then moves on to Alexander’s reality, his native Macedonia, his teachers, his heroes Achilles and Heracles, and his ideals. The lion’s share of this reality consists of his journey, the Great Expedition to the East: an unparalleled campaign of conquest lasting over ten years, with an army that was more than 50,000 strong. Objects from Egypt and Persia, from the nomads and the Babylonians, attest to the rich cultures that he encountered on his travels. Visitors can follow the route of his celebrated journey on interactive maps and computers.

This part of the exhibition also highlights the Greek influence on those other cultures. Terracotta figurines depicting men and women, gods and satyrs, musicians and Eros, and stone fragments of architecture, testify to the artistic wealth that characterized the Hellenistic territories from the fourth century BC to the first few centuries AD. While many of these works reflect the Greek spirit of cheerfulness and playfulness, the Greeks also took an interest in the atypical, such as disabilities and deformities.

Finally, the exhibition dwells on Alexander’s heritage. Fourth-century reliefs from Palmyra demonstrate the endurance of Greek traditions outside Greece, as do papyruses bearing texts in Greek, which were still being produced in the ninth century. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Alexander played a prominent role in Persian literature, in which he is known as Iskander. He is recognizable in finely executed miniatures.

Alexander the Great is still a topical figure in our own times. Very recently (2004) a broad international public became better acquainted with him thanks to Oliver Stone’s film of his life. Alexander is a phenomenon. He is immortal. And the exhibition on show at the Hermitage Amsterdam makes this abundantly clear.

Erwin Olaf was asked to make photographic interpretations of Alexander, which he did in a photographic series and a short film. By interlacing objects from the exhibition with photographs of an actual model, Olaf has succeeded in skilfully conveying Alexander’s character traits and his handsome features.”

Press release from the Hermitage Amsterdam website

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Figure of Bacchus/Dionysus
Roman copy, 2nd century AD, after Greek original
Late 4th-early 3rd century BC
Marble
h 207 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

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Heracles fighting the Nemaean lion
Rome
2nd-3rd century AD fragments with possible Italian additions 16th-17th century
Marble
h 65
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

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Bronze leg-protectors
Greece
4th century BC
Bronze
h right protector 41, h left protector 40 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

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Table clock: the vigil of Alexander the Great
Russia, St Petersburg (?), after original by Pierre Philippe Thomire
1830-40 (?)
Bronze, cast, chased and gilded
70 x 30 x 70 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

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Cameo: triumph of Dionysus
Alexandria
1st century BC
Sardonyx (on carnelian plaque)
4.2 x 2.7 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

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The Hermitage Amsterdam
Amstel 51, Amsterdam

Opening hours:
Daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wednesdays to 8 p.m.

Hermitage Amsterdam website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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