Bill Viola’s ground breaking new work “Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water)” was unveiled at St Paul’s Cathedral at Evensong on May 21st 2014.
The four screen video wall installed near the Altar of St Paul’s is the first moving image work of art to be installed in a British Cathedral. The exhibit shows four figures who are submitted to intense physical trial by earth, fire, water and air. “All of the martyrs have already made their decisions to make the ultimate sacrifice and this is their darkest hour through death” says Kira Perov, Bill Violas partner and collaborator. Viola says “Through love, the soul unites itself with God”.
Bill Viola with documentary crew at St Pauls Cathedral
The cast carbon steel stand that supports the screens has been designed by eminent architect Norman Foster and his team at Foster + Partners.
Martyrs will be joined in 2015 by a second piece entitled Mary, which the artist has conceived as a companion work. The installations have been offered to Tate as a gift, and on long-term loan to St Paul’s Cathedral thus strengthening the cultural links between the two institutions that face eachother across the Thames.
Bill Viola said: “The two themes of Martyrs and Mary symbolise some of the profound mysteries of human existence. One is concerned with birth and the other 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 is internationally recognised as one of the leading artists of our time. An acknowledged pioneer in the medium of video art, throughout his career he has created a wide range of video installations displayed at locations across the world from major museums to religious institutions, royal palaces & universities.