There is an incredibly sense of calmness looking at the drawings of the Vija Celmins. Like frozen in time, the natural environments (sea, deserts, night sky…) depicted with delicate palette of grey tones, are very similar to a black and white photographs, thanks to her obsessive attention to detail and meticulous technique.
“I see drawing as thinking, evidence of getting from one place to another. One draws to define one thing from another … I tend to take very small increments and steps in changing. An example was that I had been working with the pencil and I began to see that the graphite itself had a certain life to it. So I did a series of images of oceans and deserts using different grades of graphite and pushing each one to its limit. I learned a lot about the possibilities of expressiveness in graphite by doing this. Then I moved into the galaxy drawings. Even though you may think they came from lying under the stars, for me, they came out of loving the blackness of the pencil. It’s almost as if I was exploring the blackness of the pencil along with the image that went with it.”
(Quoted in Drawing as Thinking, [pp.1-2].)
She is using indeed charcoal, graphite and erasers like no one, and we just cannot stop to be amazed in front of her art, where the absence of colour and human presence (especially in her late works) cultivate even more the neutral aspect of her subject, out of all romantic cliché.
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