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Vija Celmins

(b. 1939)


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(1938– )

Latvian/American painter. Born in Riga, she migrated with her family to the United States when she was ten. Her paintings are generally based on black and white photographs, often derived from newspapers and magazines. She thinks of the photograph as something which she reinvents when she paints, as ‘another layer that creates distance’. As with Gerhard Richter, her paintings tend to emphasize not so much the idea of photography as a mirror of the world but the extent to which the photograph is radically different from perception. Freeway (1966) depicts the road ahead and is derived from a photograph taken from the wheel of the artist's car. As the critic Barry Schwabsky points out, its clarity is quite at odds with our normal experience. In such a situation we would normally perceive a distinction between the other vehicles, travelling at our speed, and the relative blur of the road passing us by.

Further Reading

Arts Council of England, The Painting of Modern Life (2007)

Subjects: Art.


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