Latin American artist Vija Celmins started producing depictions of the night sky in the 1970’s. The images have restricted rectangular boarders but present a limitless recess into the background. Her Starfeild works often employ the process of creating black field with charcoal and then using an eraser to create each star (*citation Tate). Created through replication rather can actual observation of a night sky, Celmins plays with notions of distance and perceived proximity. Creating a personal connection to the imagery Celmins would ‘scrutinize these little images in great detail. Their small size allowed for an intimacy with the subject. It allowed me to enter that grey world in a personal way and I would draw my way out of it’ (Close, 51). The intimate scale of the works and the importance of the surface of the drawing techniques draws a viewer in, questioning what is physical and what is absence in the expanse of the cosmos.
Clemins’ star field works, and her larger practice raises questions of scale and cause the viewer to question whether they are looking at something incomprehensibly large, something small, that they could hold in their hand, or something viewed through a microscope. All reference the natural world and draw upon the similarities of patterns found in the natural world.
From these different scales, the macro and the micro, references to human scale are made through the ability to see the hand of the artist through these works. The surface shows every trace of Celmin’s actions.
- Chuck Close, ‘Interview with Vija Celmins, New York, 26 and 27 September 1991’, in William S. Bartman (ed.), Vija Celmins Interviewed by Chuck Close, New York 1992.