Celia Hemptons cropped close-ups of genitalia, and her bright, often acidic palette update the long tradition of the painted nude. Adopting an approach to her subject that can be both raw and tender, Hemptons paintings are each portraits of a kind having as a title a persons name but they are all faceless, retaining the sitters anonymity. This sense of distance from the subject is further developed in the way Hempton transfigures the contours and forms of her painted bodies, rendering them in cool, reductive ways suggestive of other forms of nature.
As Hempton explains, The paintings of body parts came about quite suddenly two years ago but grew out of a desire Ive had to make images about, or, of bodies for many years. Previously I had been trying to figure out a way to insert them into my paintings of landscapes and objects but they invariably had a narrative quality I didnt like. So the landscapes became bodies themselves eventually, with drainage pipe orifices and pregnant mounds of rubble. This is inversely true in the nude paintings now, which I think often look like landscapes.
Inevitably Hemptons paintings have a sexual charge. The artists interest, however, is not in desire per se or in creating confrontational imagery. I am always surprised when people appear to be taken aback by an image of genitalia. I find vaginas, anuses, penises intriguing visually, but not shocking or arousing in and of themselves. The close-up was a way to focus on what I felt was the most basic and fundamental part of the nude, and the point at which I felt my gaze to be at its most scrutinised by the model in the situation of painting i.e. I think we are both aware of the moments at which I am painting their vagina, or their penis. The bum paintings are perhaps the most predatory, since the person I am painting cant see me watching them. And it is this act of looking and the performative aspects of my work which are of key interest to me.