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Vija Celmins in "Time"

Patiently working at her easel, Vija Celmins dabs tiny speaks of paint on a canvas. The object of her attention is a starry night sky, an image that she has been painstakingly creating by applying paint, rethinking, sanding it off, and adding more.

“This is all part of the work,” she says, “in fact, I often now talk about building a painting.” A prolific artist with a long career, Celmins has created sculptures, paintings, drawings and prints that find a timeless authenticity in natural forms from stones to waves and spider webs. “It’s like something unconsciously seeps into the work,” Celmins explains, discussing her attitude to the labor-intensive process she is well known for.

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Vija Celmins

Vija Celmins received international attention early on for her renditions of natural scenes—often copied from photographs that lack a point of reference, horizon, or discernable depth of field. Armed with a nuanced palette of blacks and grays, Celmins renders these limitless spaces—seascapes, night skies, and the barren desert floor—with an uncanny accuracy, working for months on a single image. Celmins has a highly attuned sense for organic detail and the elegance of imperfection. A master of several mediums, including oil painting, charcoal, and multiple printmaking processes, Celmins matches a tangible sense of space with sensuous detail in each work.

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Building Surfaces

Artist Vija Celmins discusses her methodology, inspiration, and the materiality of her work.

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