Celia Hempton

27 October 2015 By
'James', 2014, oil on polyester, 51 x 61 cm. Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid.  Photo: Lewis Ronald.
'James', 2014, oil on polyester, 51 x 61 cm. Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid. Photo: Lewis Ronald.

Celia Hempton (b. 1981, London, UK) has certainly been receiving a lot of critical attention recently, and if the buzz around Galerie Sultana’s stand at this year’s Paris Internationale is anything to go by, the artist looks set for wider public awareness as well.

Hempton’s paintings are graphic and sensual explorations of flesh. The artist investigates situation and paints works from an interesting position, exploring her responsive emotions which range from ‘fascination to rage and hilarity’. It is the confidently distinct way in which her work extends beyond its overt sexual inflection, which she describes as incidental, that defines Hempton as a painter.

In her most recent body of work, Chat Random, the artist has chosen to find her subjects online.  The explosion of the internet in recent decades has invited a number of artists to explore themes surrounding cyberspace. However, Celia Hempton’s paintings stand out as plain and candid representations of the emergence of a new online culture.

Hempton uses the website ‘Chatrandom’ to develop her images; a global network of video chatrooms connecting unknown strangers that is often used for masturbation. The artist asks the men she meets in this heavily sexualised virtual space if she can paint what she sees of them, leading to a range of paintings that are dependent on the patience and the temperament of her newly acquainted subjects. Paintings where Hempton was given longer to interact with her subject have been worked and reworked whilst she intensely studies the body, whereas the more fleeting connections lead to a fluid and immediate response that is often extremely graphic or unfinished.

Hempton’s nude paintings depict a contrast between the intimate and the impersonal. The faces of her subjects are always cut, yet the candid exposure of flesh through bold colour and brush strokes reaches out and creates a sense of familiar connection to the unknown.

Celia Hempton studied MA Painting at the Royal College of Art and BA Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art. Recent solo displays of her work include Lupa at Galerie Sultana, Paris, FLY ASH at White Cubicle, London, Chat Random at Southard Reid, London, and a performance and presentation of work made in Stromboli as part of Forget Amnesia curated by Milovan Farronato and Haroon Mirza, Fiorucci Trust, Italy, 2014. She is also soon to feature in the British Council Touring Exhibition.