Public Collections: Edition 1: National Gallery of Australia
Passage into night shows a female figure in the harsh light and heat of the midday sun. The extreme conditions distort and disturb the air, causing her to undulate and flutter. She begins as an apparition within a mirage, a tiny form in the barren landscape. Gradually her person becomes apparent and eventually her dark robes completely fill the screen, obscuring the natural landscape and transforming the image into a pattern of subtly shifting dark blues and, finally, black. Although her features are revealed, the woman’s identity remains a mystery. The silence adds to the sense of mystery.
Passage into night was completed for The Tristan project—a 2005 collaboration between Viola, director Peter Sellars and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen to restage Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde—and subsequently exhibited as part of Love/Death: the Tristan project. The video also resonates with some of Viola’s earlier works. Chott el-Djerid (A portrait in light and heat) 1979, also in the Gallery’s collection, uses similar atmospheric conditions. In the more-recent dual-channel installation The crossing 1996 a walking male figure is consumed by fire on one projection and, opposite, under a deluge of water.
Lucina Ward Curator, International Painting and Sculpture National Gallery of Australia