Vija Celmins, ‘Untitled (Desert-Galaxy)’ 1974
Vija Celmins
Untitled (Desert-Galaxy) 1974
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
© Vija Celmins

Abstract Expressionism
An art movement characterised by experimental, non-representational painting originating in the USA in the 1940s, marked by free, gestural technique, a preference for dramatically large canvases, and a desire to give spontaneous expression to the unconscious.

Coma Berenices
A constellation of stars visible in the Earth’s night sky. Celmins used photographs of the Coma Berenices for the lithograph Untitled Portfolio: Galaxy 1975 and Untitled (Desert-Galaxy) 1974 from the ARTIST ROOMS collection.

Chuck Close
American artist (b.1940) best known for his large-scale photorealist portraits, composed of tiny airbrush bursts, thumbprints, or looping multi-colour brushstrokes. Close befriended Celmins while they studied together at Yale Summer School of Music and Art, Connecticut, 1961.

Traditionally in art a diptych is any object with two flat panels attached at a hinge. The diptych was a common format in Renaissance painting and depicted subjects ranging from secular portraiture to religious stories. More recently diptychs in art have not necessarily been physically attached. Many modern artists such as Joseph Beuys and Francis Bacon have used paired images. In Celmins’ diptychs such as Untitled (Desert-Galaxy) 1974 the artist presents two individual drawings side by side on the same sheet of paper. The artist has also employed the triptych device which brings together three images in one artwork.

Marcel Duchamp
French artist (1887–1968), associated with Dada. Duchamp rejected ‘retinal art’ in the early 1910s. He emigrated to the USA in 1915 and was a major influence on artists emerging in the mid-1950s until the present day. He is sometimes referred to as the ‘father of conceptual art’.

Gemini G.E.L.
Gemini G.E.L.(Graphic Editions Limited) is an artists’ workshop and publisher of limited edition prints and sculptures in Los Angeles. It was founded in 1966 and the workshop has collaborated with artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, Claes Oldenburg, and Ed Ruscha, among many others, to create editioned multiples in media including lithography, etching, creenprinting, woodcut and a wide variety of sculptural materials.

Giotto Di Bondone
Italian painter and architect (circa 1266-1337), known as Giotto, from Florence in the late Middle Ages. He is generally considered the first in a line of great artists who contributed to the Italian Renaissance. Among his works is The Lamentation circa 1305 in the Arena Chapel in Padua, Veneto, Italy.

Intaglio is from the family of printing and printmaking techniques in which the image is incised into a surface, and the incised line or sunken area holds the ink. It is the direct opposite of a relief print.

Willem De Kooning
American artist (1904-97) associated with Abstract Expressionism. He was part of a group of artists that came to be known as the New York School. Although de Kooning was considered to be an Abstract Expressionist he depicted the human figure throughout his painting.

Jasper Johns
American artist (b. 1930), forerunner of Pop Art, who works primarily in painting and printmaking. Johns’ influence on Celmins can be seen in her early paintings of ordinary objects such as a heater, a lamp and a television set.

A method of printing originally based on the principle that oil and water do not mix. Printing is from a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a smooth surface. It was invented in 1796 by German author and actor Alois Senefelder as a cheap method of publishing theatrical works. Lithography can be used to print text or artwork onto paper or other suitable material.

Lucy Lippard
An American writer, art critic and curator (born 1937) best known as being among the first writers to recognise the dematerialisation at work in conceptual art and was an early champion of feminist art. She included Celmins in an early chronology of Pop Art in 1966.

René Magritte
Belgian artist (1898-1967) who was a major figure in the Surrealist movement. His primary role was as a painter, and he frequently delved into mystical concepts and the disconnection between objects, people, and their meanings. Celmins paid homage to Magritte in her early sculpture Untitled (Comb) 1970.

Brice Marden
American artist (b.1938) often associated with Minimalism and best known for his subtle explorations of colour, texture, and form. Marden befriended Celmins while they studied together at Yale Summer School of Music and Art, Connecticut, 1961.

Agnes Martin
American artist (1912-2004) often associated with Minimalism though she preferred to be associated with the Abstract Expressionists. Martin was referred to as a Minimalist because of her spare paintings and drawings, which featured large grids drawn by hand in ink or graphite on paper or canvas.

Minimal Art
An art movement from the late 1960s. Minimalist artists typically made works in simple geometric shapes based on the square and the rectangle. Many minimal works explore the properties of their materials, which were often industrial.

Giorgio Morandi
Italian artist (1890-1964) known for his still-life groupings of bottles, pots, and occasional landscapes. Through his simple and repetitive motifs and economical use of colour and surface, Morandi is considered an important forerunner of Minimalism.

Jackson Pollock
American artist (1912-56) known for his completely abstract ‘all-over’ style to which was given the name Abstract Expressionism. His involvement with gestural painting culminated in his use from 1947 of a technique of dripping trails of paint onto a canvas laid flat on the floor.

Pop Art
An art movement that emerged in the mid-1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the USA. Pop Art presented a challenge to the traditions of fine art by including found imagery from popular culture such as advertising, news, etc. Celmins’ early paintings were often associated with Pop Art because of her use of found mass-produced images.

Ad Reinhardt
American abstract painter (1913–67) associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement. In 1953 he published the text ‘Twelve Rules for the New Academy’. The twelve rules challenged accepted forms of representation and became an inspiration for Celmins.

Relief Printing
A printmaking process where protruding surface faces of the printing plate or block are inked; recessed areas are ink free. Printing the image is therefore a relatively simple matter of inking the face of the matrix and bringing it in firm contact with the paper. A printing-press may not be needed as the back of the paper can be rubbed or pressed by hand with a simple tool such as a brayer or roller.

An avant-garde art movement that began in the early 1920s. The movement was launched in Paris by French poet André Breton with the publication of his Manifesto of Surrealism. The aim of surrealism was to reveal the unconscious and reconcile it with rational life. Surrealism also aimed at social and political revolution and for a time was affiliated to the Communist party. Celmins’ early sculptures are often associated with Surrealism because of their exaggerated scale.

Diego Velázquez
One of the great European painters (1599-1660) of the Baroque era. His paintings include landscapes, portraits, mythological and religious subjects and scenes from common life. He often used a sombre palette and was one Celmins’ early influences.

Paolo Uccello
An Italian Renaissance painter and a mathematician (1397-1475) who was notable for his pioneering work on visual perspective in art. In the work Constellation – Uccello 1983 Celmins brings together own image of the night sky and a found image of a drawing by Uccello.

Vietnam War
A prolonged conflict (1959-75) between nationalist forces attempting to unify the country of Vietnam under a communist government and the United States attempting to prevent the spread of communism. The involvement of the United States escalated in the mid-1960s with deployment of the first ground troops. The war sparked mass protests and many artists including Celmins demonstrated against the war.