Solo Show at Galerie Sultana
4th March - 8th April
One might be tempted to say that Celia Hempton's work is voyeuristic. But this would be to remain on the threshold of her approach. Over the last ten years Celia Hempton has made a series of paintings of people (or their environment in the moment of the encounter) who use online video chat websites like Chat Random. The limits of this mode of communication are integral to the paintings. The composition of the image is chosen by the interlocutor's desired camera angle, whilst each digital live stream is compressed and distorted depending on the user's location and webcam. The length of the exchange (either person can choose to disappear at any time) also dictates the painted gesture. Her gaze is both activated and restricted, and in this way Celia Hempton's process complicates the power dynamics traditionally encountered between a painter and model, between genders, and between social groups.
A new series of paintings shown together with these portraits comes from the incessant flow of films produced by surveillance cameras scattered all over the world. There is the entrance to an elevator in Russia, the back of a Tokyo restaurant, or a few leaves dancing in the middle of a courtyard in Taiwan. These videos could be disconcertingly banal, but it is their solitude that is troubling. They never quite emerge from their anonymity and refuse to fully reveal themselves to us. Once frozen in the painting, they oscillate between figuration and abstraction and try again to evade us. How much confidence can we place in an image? Are we sure of what is going on? More than testing boundaries, it would seem that Celia Hempton is challenging our certainties.
Camille Bardin — Février 2023
Edited in english by Celia Hempton
Two series of new works are shown here together for the first time in Paris. Made whilst viewing online live camera streams over the last few years during the pandemic (webcam interactions with the artist on a video chat website and hacked surveillance camera streams), these works speak to both the loneliness of online interaction in 2023 but also the automated mechanisms by which our lives are silently managed. This is then disrupted by glitches of intimacy and entropy. The images break down into their constituent parts- lumpy and sticky layers of oil paint reach out of the surface to become objects, and then slip back into defined and clear illusions on smooth aluminium.
The intensity and speed of many of the chatrandom paintings capture a single moment in a spontaneous gesture - a speaking mouth, or faces leaning out of view but craving satisfaction. Conversely, time slows down in the surveillance paintings. The mystery of a single circumscribed view, spaces that are owned and guarded yet actively trespassed upon, one-way portals into the unfamiliar: sunlight passing across a chair in a small room on the Isle of Man, a Tokyo cash point at night, a swimming pool at dawn seen through a misted lens in Arizona, or the familiar non-places - motorways or institutional corridors where banality and the uncanny coexist.
Celia Hempton's work explores concepts of voyeurism in the post-digital age. In her paintings, performances and installations, she investigates the blurred lines of comfort and consent; desire and subjugation, visibility and opacity; seeking to deconstruct the ways in which we engage with each other in a rapidly evolving age of hyper-mediation. Formally, Hempton's paintings, which range in scale from intimate to life-size, acknowledge the tropes of history painting and the often subjugated female body. Hempton's richly layered paintings directly play with and confront this historical dynamism, producing tactile celebrations of the body, alongside multiple perspectives on how the bodily gaze is constructed.
Celia Hempton - February 2023