American artist Vija Celmins makes paintings, drawings and prints. Using charcoal, graphite and erasers she produces delicate monochromatic images based on photographs of the sea, deserts, the night sky and other natural phenomena. Through her slow rigorous approach, the meticulous precision of her technique, and serial exploration of her subjects, Celmins seems to question the nature of representation.
ARTIST ROOMS comprises of 34 works on paper by Celmins, including three unique drawings. The seminal drawing Web #1 is typical of her apparently fragile, ephemeral images and is the first of nine works on the theme of the spider’s web made between 1998 and 2006. It is accompanied by a series of four ‘web’ prints from 2001 and 2002.
Other works in the collection include an important series from the 1980s entitled Concentric Bearings which explores different images of objects turning in space. These double and triple-image prints combine pictures which held particular significance for Celmins, including a poignant image of a plane which reminded the artist of her childhood in Latvia and Germany in the 1940s.
The collection includes two negative images of night-skies in which the sky appears white and star formations are transformed into black markings. Another work shows a pile of photographs featuring images of night skies and ocean surfaces; Celmins source materials.
Celmins's works focus on something small and individual in the context of vastness. The images they depict seem fragile because they record a specific human glimpse through a telescope or camera which is frozen in time. seems to question the nature of representation.
See our Vija Celmins learning resource for more on the artist's work.