Vija Celmins

Untitled (Desert-Galaxy) (1974)

About this artwork

Celmins's intense monochromatic images, based on photographs of the desert and a galaxy in the night sky, focus on small and individual marks in the context of vastness. The images appear 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 allows her to exploit the distinct characteristics of the variety of media she uses. This double-image drawing brings together two of Celmins's recurring motifs, the desert landscape and the night sky. Celmins has explained that her galaxy drawings originate from a love of exploring "the blackness of the pencil". She leaves the paper bare to create points of light.

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  • title: Untitled (Desert-Galaxy)
  • accession number: AR00162
  • artist: Vija CelminsAmerican (born 1938)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • medium: Embossed paper in frame
  • date created: 1974
  • measurements: 44.20 x 95.60 cm (framed: 52.00 x 103.50 x 4.00 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.