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Bill Viola to Undertake Commission for St Paul's Cathedral in London
Bill Viola, Ocean Without a Shore, 2007, 3-channel High Definition video/sound installation. Installation view by Thierry Bal. Photography Kira Perov. Copyright Bill Viola and Kira Perov 2009. Courtesy the artist and Haunch of Venison.
LONDON.- Internationally acclaimed artist Bill Viola has been commissioned to create two altarpieces for permanent display in St Paul’s Cathedral, The Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s announced today. The project will commence production in mid 2009 with completion in early 2011.

Following the extensive programme of cleaning and repair of the interior of St Paul’s, completed in 2005, Bill Viola has been commissioned to create two altarpieces on the themes of Mary and Martyrs. These two multi-screen video installations will be permanently located at the end of the Quire aisles, flanking the High Altar of the Cathedral and the American Memorial Chapel where US Service men and women who gave their lives in the Second World War are commemorated.

Each work will employ an arrangement of multiple plasma screen panels configured in a manner similar to historic altarpieces. The screens will be mounted on hinged panels, allowing them to be closed.

Canon Martin Warner, Treasurer of St Paul’s, said: “The new works in the Quires aisles are expected to add to the devotional and reflective experience of visitors to St Paul’s, arresting people’s attention and inviting them to pause and reflect on their tour of the Cathedral.”

Bill Viola said: “The two themes of Mary and Martyrs symbolise some of the profound mysteries of human existence. One is concerned with birth and the other with death; one with comfort and creation, the other with suffering and sacrifice. If I am successful, the final pieces will function both as aesthetic objects of contemporary art and as practical objects of traditional contemplation and devotion.”

Bill Viola, an acknowledged pioneer in the medium of video art, has for over 35 years created a wide range of video installations at locations across the world from major museums to religious institutions, from royal palaces to universities. Focusing on universal human experiences – life, death and rebirth – the artist’s work has roots in both Eastern and Western art. He has been instrumental in establishing video as a important form of contemporary art, and in so doing has helped to expand its scope in terms of technology, content and historical research.

The artist’s many acclaimed works have included Ocean Without a Shore, premiered in the 15th century church of San Gallo at the 2007 Venice Biennale, The Messenger, a special commission for Durham Cathedral in 1996 and the video triptych Study for The Path (2002) donated to one of Milan’s historic churches, Basilica di San Marco, in 2008.

This commission forms part of St Paul’s Cathedral Arts Project, an ongoing programme which seeks to explore the encounter between art and faith. Recent projects have included installations by Rebecca Horn, Yoko Ono and Martin Firrell.


St Paul's Cathedral | Bill Viola | Rebecca Horn | Yoko Ono | Martin Firrell |


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