May 8 2012
Rich pickings for Guffwatch in this week's New York contemporary auction catalogues. Here's a typically adjectival-heavy offering from Christie's for the above Untitled #8 by Vilja Celmins (est. $7-900,000), which introduced me to an entirely new word, 'mimesis':
The tension between the ethereal constellation of stars and the layers of charcoal that lie on the surface like an undulating blanket of dark, engulfs light even as it draws attention to the flat paper on which the scene is rendered. Celmins' shower of stars is transcendental at the same time as it is material. The vast nebulous night sky becomes accessible through the world of drawing. The translation of a vast nebula into a drawn image pressures both, as the artist reconfigures in charcoal on paper the technologically transmitted vision of space.
Untitled #8 encourages deep reflection and suggests a viewing experience of infinite variety, much like the sky Celmins captures in the drawn image. The attention to detail in the artist's process creates an effect as deep in time as the cosmos, yet her hand drawn starscape both encourages and resists such depth by virtue of a few strokes of an eraser. Through sensuous tactility and a keen sense of mimesis, Untitled #8 draws the viewer in and in so doing conflates not only the near and far, the hand-wrought and mechanical, but also the profane and sublime.
In case you were as ignorant as me, 'mimesis' means 'a figure of speech whereby the words of actions of another are imitated'.
Update - a reader puts me in my place:
Mimesis is widely written about in Western art history - a description of a type of art attempting to mimic reality - which some argue can be traced back to the famous myth of Hellenic painter Zeuxis - whose tale is echoed in Alberti's De Pictura and even in Raphael's own letters (namely the cobbling together of several ideals portions to create a complete ideal).
The concept is obvious - but the word is totally new to me. I must be reading the wrong kind of art history books.