Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins

Vija Celmins, London

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Tate Britain


Latvian-American artist Vija Celmins is best known for her highly wrought photo-realistic drawings and paintings. She employs found images, in common with many of her contemporaries who emerged from the Los Angeles art scene of the sixties and seventies. Often taking photographs of natural phenomena as a starting point, her work repeatedly reinterprets the same images, initially captured by camera or telescope, to produce intricate portraits of such delicate scenes as deserts, star-filled night skies, oceans and cobwebs. In her prints and drawings she explores traditional printing techniques and the material density of charcoal, graphite and ink.

For this display the artist selected four unique drawings and related prints from the ARTIST ROOMS collection. In the next room, Vija Celmins selected works on paper by J.M.W. Turner to coincide with the presentation of her own work. Speaking about her selection of works by the British artist, Celmins said:

'In many ways my work is the opposite of Turner. I see his work as impressionistic, full of gesture and colour, open in feeling and luminous with light and activity - storms, and wind, sunsets and sunrises. My work is stilled and my gestures are subdued and hidden. A stroke too active feels wrong to me. The work has no light but the white of the paper and every stroke describes the flat surface and the image together making one solid object.

We do share, I think, a love for the material we use. Turner leaves the mercurial attributes of watercolour as evidence, and I push the natural density of charcoal, graphite, and mezzotint, so both of us acknowledge the physicality of the material as part of our work. I think we also both like wildness – the wilderness, the impossible image to capture and wrestle onto that small piece of paper. We are also not confessional artists looking to express ourselves but are more observers and describers of the world outside.'


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