Bill Viola

Four Hands (2001)

About this artwork

The hands of three generations are seen in this work – a young boy, father, mother and grandmother. Slowly and deliberately, the four pairs of hands are shown forming a series of predetermined movements. These are taken from sources as diverse as Buddhist mudras (defined ritual or symbolic gestures) and 17th-century English chirologia tables, which illustrate hand gestures that accompany emotional states. Viola explains that the work is “a timeline that encompasses both the parallel actions of the individuals in the present moment and the larger movements of the stages of human life.” It is part of a series called 'The Passions', which is inspired by early European devotional paintings and explores human emotions.

  • title: Four Hands
  • accession number: AR00043
  • artist: Bill ViolaAmerican (born 1951)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Installation
  • subject: Video Art
  • date created: 2001
  • measurements: 23.00 cm x 130.00 cm x 20.50 cm
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
  • copyright: © Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms

Bill Viola

Bill Viola

American Bill Viola is one of the world's leading video artists. Since the early 1970s he has used video to explore universal human experiences such as birth, death and the unfolding of consciousness. He is influenced by both Western and Eastern artistic and spiritual traditions including Zen Buddhism and Christian mysticism. As technology has advanced, his installations have become more streamlined in appearance and are now uncluttered by projection equipment, video players etc. His work is notable for its precision and simplicity and for its fusion of painting, photography and cinema.