Celia Hempton - Why I Paint
Exploring the creative processes of tomorrow's artists today - as featured in Vitamin P3
A plump bottom lies before us on a cloudy-white bed sheet. Slightly raised, two cheeks protrude, while two testicles peek out from underneath. The rounded figure is rendered in broad brushstrokes of aquamarine, orange and pink. The painting is entitled Eddie, August 2013, Hotel Lumin, Dallas (2013), after the name and location of the male sitter. Like many of Celia Hempton’s subjects, Eddie is observably posing, but it is a posture of vulnerability – passive, objectified, the subject of our gaze.
This work is one of dozens of paintings produced in various scales and sizes, from the miniature to larger than life-size, of male figures whose bodily features – a flaccid technicolour penis or an erect one – collectively portray the divergent forms of modern day gender, sexuality and performance.
Most evocative here is how Hempton manages to both capture and flatten the attitude adopted by her subjects, revealing the manner in which each figure’s posturing is suggestive of a kind of performance. As the artist has stated, ‘what I am looking for when painting is a situation more important than painting itself’. Here, the Vitamin P3-featured painter tells us what interests, inspires and spurs her on.
Who are you? Celia Hempton.
What’s on your mind right now? Geysers - exploding hot springs - and their orifice-like shape.
How do you get this stuff out? I am a big fan of being prolific and then editing out retrospectively as opposed to meticulous planning and execution.
How does it fit together? Through an interest in nature, risk and looking at things that are in front of me for longer than might feel comfortable.
What brought you to this point? If you mean, this point in my work - I would say probably an evolution of impulses that I have had since I was a child, combined with the influence of experience and people I know.
Can you control it? Could you clarify this question? If you mean can I control my artistic output I would say I have never really tried to - I get depressed when I don't make art for any length of time so maybe that helps it along.
Have you ever destroyed one of your paintings? Yes all the time! I highly recommend it. I think the feeling that has prevented me from destroying a work in the past has been fear that I might later regret it, and that I might never be able to repeat again the parts of the work that I in fact liked. But that's the opposite to a feeling of confidence and freedom that I feel when I make what I think are my best works. I prefer to think, 'this next work will be better than the last one' and that my work moves forwards rather than looks back.
What’s next for you, and what’s next for painting? A collaborative film and accompanying musical score with my friend Prem Sahib made from footage of men working on building sites. Next for painting - I am happy to say I don't know.
Vitamin P3 New Perspectives In Painting is the third in an ongoing series that began with Vitamin P in 2002 and Vitamin P2 in 2011. For each book, distinguished critics, curators, museum directors and other contemporary art experts are invited to nominate artists who have made significant and innovative contributions to painting. The series in general, and Vitamin P3 in particular, is probably the best way to become an instant expert on tomorrrow's painting stars today.
Find out more about Vitamin P3 New Perspectives In Painting here. Check back for another Why I Paint interview with a Vitamin P3-featured artist tomorrow. Finally be sure to check out more of Celia's work at Southard Reid.