Southard Reid is proud to present a solo exhibition by Celia Hempton.
“Painting is always on the threshold. It makes up the threshold between intactness and touching – between the intactness and touching of light and shadow.”
Jean-Luc Nancy, The Sense of the World, 1993
In the video of Rihanna’s ‘Rude Boy’ there is a sense of an all over pulsation in which gesture, voice, visuality, design, sound, all cohere into a sumptuous second by second animation of intense hyper excess. Perhaps we could view such an artefact as an embodiment of a form of techno-aesthetics, a form that is like the heat of the midday sun touching upon all things with the afterthought of gravity removed. In Celia Hempton’s paintings there is a sideway glance at such artefacts, combined with an outward look at the world able in turn to slow such pulsations down.
The saturation of these works relates to a memory of Italian light; dreamy, ice cream-like, closer to the kind of light that touches everything in a profusion of moist evanescence. Surfaces are then invested with an all over softness that issues from an evident threefold seduction of light, colour and touch, whereas often the objects referenced are solitary and indifferent to passing attention. This is a case of the steamy, sumptuous surface of the work attaching itself to something remote or left over, all in a manner that connects feelings of sex, time and ruin in unlikely ways. Tints of fluorescent colours gesture towards a saturation of sense, an abundance becoming snapshot. However there is something lingering in the passage of marks that is not so much a jolt of knowledge but the fade of mis-recognition dwelling in the after image of the work.
Adorno once talked of art being like a “utopian blink” and though these works have a quality of a blink, the possible extent of utopian duration is absent. Instead we have something closer to flickers of a passing world that moment by moment is emptying itself of either content or traction.
Art forms that attempt to figure ruins invariably dip into the rhetoric of mourning and its attendant tonal charting, so here we have a surprising shift toward a sensual register that is closer to those associated with scenes of pleasure, yet we are viewing the body of a dead fox, or discarded concrete, emblems of passed-over nature or culture. Rather than the air being heavy, damp and dull, weighing on the optical facility like an unending fugue on the ear, we have instead a lighter sense of matter and space that both dazzles and caresses.
All of this is unlikely, and if not, even untimely in the combined touching of both the everyday and the dream-like. This might be another way of saying that these paintings escape the prescribed indices of representational certainties, and as such, are disruptive to the very notion of being certain; they appear to play with the impulses that in the first instance might propel them forward. If the feeling of spatiality is soft, then in turn the sense of temporality is abrupt. Shock and sensuality become coexistent in the presentation of difference, opening a spasm that de-figures the real. It is this disrupted immediacy of touch that is the hallmark of a restless art moving in and through itself.
Hempton was born in 1981. She graduated from an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art in 2007 receiving the Neville Burston Memorial Award. Her BA was completed at Glasgow School of Art in 2003. From 2008–10 she was the Sainsbury Award holder at the British School at Rome. She has exhibited widely in group exhibitions, recently This Matter at The Royal Standard, Liverpool, Easyjetsetters curated by Lucy Stein at The Forgotten Bar, Berlin, Riff Raff, Q, London, Mermaids vs Unicorns at i-20 Gallery, New York andSt Mungo and Me, Lightbox Gallery, Los Angele