Vija Celmins

Web # 1 (1999)

About this artwork

Celmins's intense monochromatic images of the night sky, based on photographs, focus on small and individual marks in the context of vastness. The images seem fragile because they record a specific human glimpse through a telescope or camera which is ephemeral and frozen in time. Celmins's serial exploration of her subjects, including the night sky, allows the artist to exploit the distinct characteristics of the variety of media she uses. This meticulous, translucent web is typical of her apparently fragile, ephemeral images. These images echo the web-like construction of the universe, a further preoccupation of the artist. Celmins has explained: “Maybe I identify with the spider. I'm the kind of person who works on something forever and then works on the same image again the next day."

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  • title: Web # 1
  • accession number: AR00164
  • artist: Vija CelminsAmerican (born 1938)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • medium: Charcoal on paper
  • date created: 1999
  • measurements: 44.80 x 53.40 cm (paper 56.50 x 64.90 cm) (framed: 61.10 x 69.40 x 3.80 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: © Vija Celmins.
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms

Vija Celmins

Vija Celmins

Born in Latvia in 1938, Cemins and her family emigrated to the United States in 1948. Although beginning her career as an Abstract Expressionist painter, she is now best known for her intricate, monochromatic drawings of a select range of subjects. In 1966 she began to use photographs as the subject for her works, creating what she described as “impossible images” which remind us of the complexity of the simplest things. These meticulous renderings of the surface of the ocean, expanses of desert, the night sky, or a spider’s web, demonstrate her fascination with the surrounding world. With a slow, painstaking approach, some of these works take up to a year to complete.