Celia Hempton




Chat Random

“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. …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.” 

I really enjoy the immediacy of Hempton’s paintings, the uninhibited, fast brush strokes work well to convey the mindset of ‘getting off’ as if she were trying to get to the completion or climax of the painting as fast as possible; much like the men she is portraying. These quick marks also add to the anonymity of the men, something which is a big part of webcam culture and is further explored through the simple titles of the paintings, capturing only their locations and occasionally a username. I really like the fact that the paintings, at first glance look as though they could have just been photos taken with a bad webcam.

The subject matter of Hempton’s paintings obviously relates to the imagery of my Field work with the exploration of sexuality being very evident in both. Likewise to my work, Hempton’s challenges the conventions of the social space; mine being the dining space and hers being the gallery space. While nudity is fairly common in gallery paintings, the male nude is far less represented and the erect penis is rarely if ever, seen at all in a white cube space. The gallery wall provides a very intimate viewing experience and to present a painting like this in such a matter of fact way makes these paintings seem as much a protest of the space as they are a reflection or comment on human nature.

After doing a bit more research I found Hempton has exhibited her work at a number of vastly different spaces, as shown below. The connotations and effects of the surroundings of an artwork is something we have also been exploring through Subject.


In the first image Hempton’s paintings are displayed on beautiful, old wooden panels; I feel that this serves to further reinforce the idea that these paintings are a confrontation with the audience. Nowadays, when we walk into a gallery space, we expect to be confronted with difficult ideas or challenged in some way or another so this almost domestic looking setting is emphasising the shock factor of the paintings.

In the second image the paintings are hung on a tiled surface. We are unsure as to what this location is specifically, but with the imagery presented to us it forces me to assume this is a public toilet. I really like the idea of using a semi private, semi public space such as a men’s toilet for housing work such as this; somewhere that some gay men have and do still meet for sexual encounters. These connotations make the paintings almost become an invitation to the bystander a “come into my stall and look closer”.

In the final 2 images, the works are displayed on walls adorned with large brush marks reflective the smaller ones in Hempton’s paintings. These blotches of paint hold a sort of presence within them, bringing a voyeuristic quality to the experience as if these colours could be blurred out webcams or audience watching you as you watch the paintings.



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