Simon Willis is an editor at The Economist’s culture magazine 1843 and a former associate editor of Granta.

NYR DAILY

Tove Jansson: Beyond the Moomins?

Tove Jansson: Smoking Girl (Self-Portrait), 1940

For anyone familiar with Tove Jansson from the Moomins alone, the most surprising works in the exhibition—which aims to rectify the fact that less attention has generally been paid to her range as a visual artist—will be her early self-portraits and her wartime political cartoons. The exhibition’s progression has two somewhat contradictory results. On the one hand, by opening with unfamiliar parts of Jansson’s oeuvre it emphasizes her breadth. On the other, it gets that out of the way before moving on to better-known material. Its momentum ends up flowing toward the Moomins rather than away from them.

Bill Viola’s Martyrs: Sleek, Glamorous, Empty

A view of Bill Viola’s video installation Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) on display at St. Paul's Cathedral, London

Martyrs, a new work by the American video artist Bill Viola, is difficult to take as seriously as it takes itself. It is being shown as a permanent exhibit in St Paul’s Cathedral in London, just a few feet from the high altar, and is designed as a kind of altarpiece. Four plasma screens are arranged in a row on a sleek metal stand by the architect Norman Foster. Each screen shows a silent video, a little over seven minutes long, of a person undergoing a highly aestheticized ordeal involving, respectively, earth, air, fire, and water—all captured with sumptuous visual effects and all withstood in serene and saintly forbearance.