Critics’ Picks

View of “Celia Hempton,” 2014.

View of “Celia Hempton,” 2014.


Celia Hempton

Galleria Lorcan O'Neill
Vicolo dei Catinari 3
February 20–April 19, 2014

In her first solo exhibition in Italy, Celia Hempton presents thirteen oil-on-canvas works. Their subjects are female and male sex organs, and their titles—Justine, Jo, Eddie, Alex, Caspar, and Kamal, all 2013—are the names of the friends and models who posed for anatomical portraits, either live or via video. These typically hidden body parts are here not only revealed but foregrounded. False modesty is nowhere to be found—just clarity and disarming self-confidence. The use of vivid colors and fluid, soft brushstrokes, which brings to mind the expressive radiance of Fauvism, allows these intimate depictions to lose contact with the dimension of reality from which they’re derived and to enter a more abstract realm. These works’ compositional and chromatic aspects are further emphasized by the broad layers of color that Hempton applies directly to the walls, creating imaginary landscapes that act as a backdrop for the canvases. Because the artist has here intervened on the walls of both the main exhibition space and the project room, the entire installation seems to hold an atmospheric charge. While most of the works address the sexual realm and its cultural significance in contemporary society—where the boundaries between public and private are increasingly blurred and terms such as privacy, confidentiality, and discretion continuously change meaning—one final work, presented in a separate room, takes a different tack by instead investigating nature. A view of the outskirts of Rome—where green areas, still dense with vegetation, resist the advancing urban sprawl—the piece, titled Prenestina, 2014, is a delicate and affectionate homage to the Italy’s capital, where Hempton resided from 2008 to 2010.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.