Works from the series ‘Corinthian’, 2013
oil on canvas, oil on wood panel, acrylic on wall, dimensions variable
Celia Hempton paints her models in this series, all complete strangers, via video chat. Thick impasto strokes, tightly cropped framing, and luminescent palettes of fleshy browns and pinks with pastel greens, blues, and reds draw the subject matter into question.
‘I think of colour in varying ways – in atmospheric and emotional terms, as a way of making objects seem dirty or clean, allowing colours to form relationships with various objects or surfaces in one painting, and in terms of changing the register of an image’s presence.’
Excerpt from conversation with Adham Faramawy, ‘Open Heart Surgery’ exhibition catalogue
Taking up the male gaze, Hempton reverses the historically gendered positions of artist and model. Curator Vincent Honore has described her painting as a ‘denial of categories, taxonomies and the limits between high and low, horizontality and verticality, object and subject, virtual and real, past and present, ignorance and knowledge, activity and passivity, singularity and standardisation.’
The painted walls on which the portraits hang were inspired by the artist’s visit to the dining room of Livia, wife of the Emperor Augustus, whilst on residency at the British School at Rome. The triclinium features a first century BCE trompe l’oeil in which a garden of cultivated quince and pomegranate trees sits just beyond a low fenceline. One of the key functions of frescoes of this period was to open up windowless interiors, as in this underground space which allowed its guests an escape from the summer heat.
Hempton turns this interior treatment towards three whitewashed concrete walls within the brutalist exhibition venue of 180 The Strand. Four angular upright panels, each with a differing gradient, demarcate the space of the installation in which both portrait and viewer are enveloped.
Hempton recently installed work in the same building for Art Night, in collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary Arts London, the Vinyl Factory and The Store.
Celia Hempton (b. 1981, Stroud) is an artist living and working in London. She received her MA in Painting from The Royal College of Art, London and her BA in Fine Art from Glasgow School of Art. Selected solo exhibitions include Frieze Art Fair, London, 2016; ICA, London, 2016; Michael Lett, Auckland, 2016; Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London, 2016; Galerie Sultana, Paris, 2016; White Cubicle, London, 2015; Southard Reid, London, UK, 2014; Galleria Lorcan O’Neill, Rome; Fiorucci Art Trust, Stromboli, 2014; Southard Reid, London, 2013; Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen, 2013. Recent group shows include Cheim & Read, New York, 2016; Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo, 2016; Galerie Sultana, Paris, 2016; British Council Touring Exhibitions, 2016; Whitechapel Gallery, London 2016; Koppe Astner, Glasgow, 2015; ICA Studio, London, 2015; Fiorucci Art Trust, London, 2015; David Roberts Art Foundation Istanbul, 2015; Art : Concept, Paris, 2015; Instants Chavirés, Montreuil, 2015; South London Gallery, London, 2014. Hempton was awarded the Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship in 2013 and the Sainsbury Scholarship in Painting for the British School at Rome in 2008.