Research Point: Project 2.2: Vija Celmins

Artist’s Background

Vija Celmins is a Latvian-American artist, born in 1944 and based in New York City.

Celmin’s main love is the use of pencils for drawing wonders found in nature, such as webs, starry skies, the ocean, rocks and clouds, however, she does create work in other ways using other methods.

Celmin’s work has been shown in over 40 exhibits since 1965 and she is rather well renowned in the art world.

Most of Celmin’s pieces are monochromatic as she works almost exclusively in grey. She takes several years to complete her pieces as she is practically obsessive with the accuracy of details within. Whilst she does not see her work as ‘copying’ which she feels implies something ‘fast’, she sees it that she is ‘redescribing’ what she sees and, whilst immaculate to the viewer, she feels there are inaccuracies within each piece which separates it from the original.

Vija Celmin believes her work shows her attention span and thoroughness in remembering minute details. Regardless of the amount of effort and work she puts in, Celmins does not care so much for people stopping and considering her work, providing her with the glory of appreciation, but instead likes the potential that people may walk past obliviously. If they do consider what they saw in her work later, that is good enough for her. Celmins appears to enjoy the solitude of the process of creating her work as opposed to the glory of public appreciation and the spotlight being aimed in her direction. This rather reminds me of Redon’s Two Trees and how someone may simply walk past without seeing the ‘hidden entrance’.

Personally, I find Celmins’ work fascinating, solitary, surreal and sinister. I also find the fact we have been asked to consider this artist’s work somewhat peculiar. My tutor commented regarding my excess space within my piece, which I agreed with, however, this artist’s whole piece appears to be excessive space? There appears to be no one main focal point within her pieces. Whilst I appreciate Celmins’ semi-abstraction within her work and the lack of actual objects, I find the effort, time and energy used within the pieces far too tiresome for my own work. I can appreciate the peaceful state one would enter when creating something such as those shown in this research and perhaps it is something I should try to consider when creating my own pieces; humility and patience. I consider this research very educational in regard to the tonal ranges involved. This is something I can try to learn from in my future works.

I also really like how Celmins pictures her work’s subject matter to be in a remote place only she is aware exists at that specific moment as this is something I would really value in my work myself. I can also fully appreciate her need for solitude and a peaceful working environment, as this is how I feel when working also.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Celmins, V (1975) Sky [lithograph on paper] At: (Accessed on 22 May 2019)

Fig. 2. Celmins, V (1969) Untitled (Big Sea #1) [Graphite on acrylic ground on paper] At: (Accessed on 22 May 2019)

Fig. 3. Celmins, V (1968) Clouds [Graphite on paper] At: (Accessed on 22 May 2019)


Centre for Religious Humanism. (Unknown) ‘Active Sight: Vija Celmins and Jackson Pollock from Pictorialism to Perception’ [Online] At: (Accessed on 22 May 2019)

Tate. (Unknown) ‘Vija Celmins’ [Online] At: (Accessed on 22 May 2019)

Tate. (Unknown) ‘Vija Celmins, Sky, 1975’ [Online] At: (Accessed 22 May 2019)

The Paris Review. (23 January 2019) ‘Nature Redescribed: The Work of Vija Celmins’ [Online] At: (Accessed on 22 May 2019)

Vija Celmins / Desert, Sea and Stars (2011) [user-generated content online] Created by: Institut für Kunstdokumentation. At: (Accessed on 11 June 2019)

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