Joseph Mallord William Turner, ‘Study of Sea and Sky’ c.1825
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Study of Sea and Sky c.1825

Vija Celmins was invited to make a selection works on paper by J.M.W. Turner to coincide with the presentation of her own work in the next room:

In many ways my work is the opposite of Turner. I see his work as impressionistic, full of gesture and color, open in feeling and luminous with light and activity - storms, and wind, sunsets and sunrises. My work is stilled and my gestures are subdued and hidden. A stroke too active feels wrong to me. The work has no light but the white of the paper and every stroke describes the flat surface and the image together making one solid object.

We do share, I think, a love for the material we use. Turner leaves the mercurial attributes of watercolor as evidence, and I push the natural density of charcoal, graphite, and mezzotint, so both of us acknowledge the physicality of the material as part of our work. I think we also both like wildness – the wilderness, the impossible image to capture and wrestle onto that small piece of paper. We are also not confessional artists looking to express ourselves but are more observers and describers of the world outside.