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Press Release

Southard Reid is pleased to present Chat Random a solo show by Celia Hempton. 

Chat Random is the first showing of a large-scale group, encompassing nearly forty works, of ‘Chat Random’ paintings. Hempton has been making the Chat Random series of portraits over the past eighteen months painted ‘live’ whilst using the website chatrandom.com, a social networking platform facilitating video chat randomly with other users of the site. 

Visible inside a small window on the computer screen, only identified by their location and sometimes a username, Hempton meets strangers – all encountered have been male – online and asks them to model for her whilst continuing the chat connection.  Chatrandom.com, like its alternative chatroulette.com, began with a utopian incentive to provide a global platform for human interaction and has largely evolved into a site used for sexual encounter or exposure.  

Serving partly as painterly documentations of Hempton’s encounters, the Chat Randoms are borne of and extend from Hempton’s approach to painting and its drive for exploration of the performative act of making work. Hempton also makes landscapes having placed herself in situations where disturbance or sense of discomfort have been present, for example close to the crater on the active volcano of Stromboli.  Her ongoing series of nudes of known sitters are those she has invited to pose. Their bold immediacy of painting is activated by the intimacy inherent in the charged act of capturing the scenario explicitly exposed to her, and doing so within the live timeframe of their sitting. Similarly Hempton’s recent wall painting installations on which she has hung groups of canvases, for example the recent work at the Gwangju Biennale, operate as abstractions, made quickly, in response to the architectural surroundings of their situation and an extension of her palette outside the framework of the canvases. 

Hempton has described the act of looking for models on Chat Random as having a sense of wilderness about it and acknowledges a differing tone from the intimacy of painting those known to her. The Chat Randoms transmute as deeply personal experiences in their realisation however, despite the distancing of anonymity, screens and the knowledge of physical remove. They are in turns touching and flagrantly matter of fact.

All works in the exhibition are made in oil, either on canvas, wood or aluminium panel, and are predominantly 25 x 30 cm, akin to the size of a laptop screen.  The diminutive scale and quantity of paintings exhibited in Chat Random serve to underscore each work’s individuality as an encounter and painted document, but also their potential infinity of supply.

Southard Reid have published a catalogue in accompaniment to the show, with a text by Mary Rinebold. 

Celia Hempton (born, Stroud, UK, 1981) lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include Galleria Lorcan O’Neill, Rome, performance and presentation of work made in Stromboli as part of Forget Amnesia curated by Milovan Farronato and Haroon Mirza, Fiorucci Trust, Italy, 2014, Cur, Southard Reid, London and Vug, Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen, Germany, 2013. Selected group exhibitions include Burning Down The House, Gwangju Biennale, Korea and Pontoon Lip with Katie Cuddon, Cell Project Space, London, 2014. 

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