“Life, Death, Rebirth” – Bill Viola / Michelangelo exhibition at the RA
Bill Viola and Michelangelo exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts was a gigantic and unique experience.
I visited the exhibition at the very last moment. I always loved Michelangelo’s work since I was a teenager. Bill Viola was to a certain extent new to me. I have studied his work in my Art History lessons, I knew some of them; but in general, he was rather an unfamiliar author to me.
Same space, different times…
I must admit I was sceptical about the exhibition and how these two artists have been brought together in the same space. The time distance between them is huge, 500 years. And despite that fact, the exposition was so powerful that I still can’t take it out of my mind. My mind was defeated, I cried in one of the rooms.
So I need to focus my attention on that particular room. Here’s what was in there. At one of the walls were three of Michelangelo’s works, all of them depicting Madonna and Child; drawings and a relief.
The small drawing shown here was so powerful and breathtaking! To me, it was one of the most beautiful and influential works of Michelangelo I have seen. The fragility of the composition, the emotion of the gesture, the unbearable awareness of what is to come, the realization of a mother of the imminent death of her child…All of these revealed in a simple drawing.
No matter the size and the historical distance of this tiny piece of art it possesses a powerful impact equivalent of the gigantic contemporary Viola’s approach across the hall.
The huge video triptych by Bill Viola was on the opposite wall, representing the three stages of life – birth, death and the in-between. The first video documents the birth of a child. The third video shows Viola’s mother on her deathbed. The middle video wall shows a man immersed in water, as though swimming through life.
I was deeply moved and shaken. I felt so grateful for the exceptional opportunity to be in touch with these great souls and their humble and astonishing work.