Vija Celmins: Galaxy no. 1 (Coma Berenices) 1973

Given her birthplace I assumed at first that Celmins’ exquisite drawing was a response to the night sky over the Baltic in the Bay of Riga. However, she seems to have emigrated from Latvia to America aged 10, some 25 years before the drawing was made…

Curiously, given the sense of vastness implied by the subject, the drawing is quite small - only about 12” high - but still generates a sense of great spatial depth. It is certainly one that benefits enormously from being seen directly rather than in reproduction. The edges of the picture are fuzzy, like the edge of a carpet and the surface is quite bumpy, presumably because of the rough graphite used, adding to the 3-dimensional effect. This rough background texture extends to the stars themselves, each having a different quality, shape and varying in focus. It is a very beautiful work, of great intensity and concentration.

Gavin Bryars