For the exhibition Pontoon Lip (16th May | 29th June) Celia Hempton and Katie Cuddon collaborated over a three-week period for Cell Project Space, a self-founded organization based in East London. Founded in 2000, Cell presents both an ongoing exhibition programme and creates affordable workspaces for young artists.
The Show is structured as a dialogue between the artists. Their works can be read individually, or synchronised as one and dependent on one another.
Pontoon Lip incorporates a performance event of a sound work that the artists will make in the space (8th June) and sees the launch of Katie Cuddon’s new publication Without a Sentence Without a Name.
Marta Ravasi – in collaboration with ATPdiary – asked some questions to the artists.
ATP: Your current exhibition is entitled Pontoon Lip; what made you decide upon this name for the show?
Celia Hempton: “Pontoon” is a word that describes a structure floating on a large body of water such as a lake or ocean. We liked the idea of pairing something structural or architectural with something bodily, and it also relates to how images can be distorted and abstracted digitally – for example the pixilation of a face in a badly connected Skype video conversation – body parts appear scrambled.
ATP: It seems that the main focus of your research is the body and its correlation with sexuality. How do you explain this interest?
CH: I am not sure if I could definitively say that this is true – I think for my part to be more interested in these ideas when they are abstracted. I think of sex in terms of psychology, nature, lumps and orifices more than in terms of the human body specifically, or in sexuality specifically. I could as well be painting a still life and the concerns would be the same. I am more interested in what is outside of the body. For me, in this show, the concerns had to do with a convergence of ideas that Katie and I have that are quite amorphous and came about through obscure and disjointed Skype conversations or conversations that took place when we had studios next door to each other in Rome.
Katie Cuddon: I think there’s a strong sense of desire, frustration, want and anticipation in the work which are described in a very physical way so yes, they become sexualized but for me the body and sex is not the focus on any ‘research’ as such but a vehicle through which other problems might be negotiated.
ATP: How would you define your collaboration, and how this dialogue is structured within your works?
KC: Working alongside each other in Rome we developed a way of talking about work which was quite personal and intimate and those discussions were often couched in more general, what one might call ‘girl’ chats. We got to know each other and each other’s work very well. So it was easy for us to develop that language and focus it towards something specific like this show. We started discussing our intentions for this show about 6 months ago but the ideas remained very flexible right up until the point when we actually entered the space and started placing work. We haven’t exactly made work together but integrated elements so the boundaries start to dissolve. We’ve tried to bring together the common elements in our work such as the quite urgent, physical and sexual charge they possess but we’ve also worked with the marked differences such as the introverted quality of my sculptures and the bold sometimes brazen quality of Celia’s work.
ATP: The artwork Me as You is exhibited in a separate ambient room, which has been lit by a green light; the result is very bold and dramatic. How did you get to this decision?
KC: We wanted the room to have a different temperature. We’d been thinking about the space in relation to the many ruins we explored in Rome where you might have the remnants of a large, open space where the sun and heat beat in and then leading off from this might be a covered, cool, damp, dark room. But we were also thinking about Roman wall paintings such as the lush Arcadian scene depicted in the paintings of the Garden of Livia in the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. The temperature and air quality in there feels completely different in contrast to rooms in which there might be the more familiar red, yellow and brown wall paintings of architectural elements.
It also felt appropriate that this quite intimate, private image of a girl masturbating with a pillow would be seen in a slightly bleached-out room so the image became almost mediated by the unfamiliar light.
ATP: Celia, in this exhibition you found yourself experimenting with various elements such as digital print, silk satin, you painted directly onto the gallery walls and on the silk fabric. How do these materials and actions relates to a more traditional way of painting?
CH: I come from a background of painting traditions – both my parents were painters and I studied painting at Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Art, so I have a heavy awareness of there being a history of painting, even if I am far from being an expert in that history. Being in Rome and surrounded by wall paintings undoubtedly had an impact on my relationship to the painted surface and the potential of it being an enveloping, environmental experience. Though I admire and have affection for many paintings and painterly traditions of the past, I want to feel free of the burden of history as a painter, or at least pretend to be free of it when I am making my work. I hope that painting for me can still be an explorative experience.
ATP: Katie, Without a Sentence Without a Name, your new publication has been launched within this show. How does your work relate to the interest you have in words and language?
KC: I find using words, particularly in relation to my work which is all about going against language, really problematic and slippery. I find myself negating what I’ve said before until I come full circle and that’s very like the process of making work I think. I’ve been really influenced by a number of writers in the past few years such as Lydia Davis, Martha Ronk, Diane Williams and this publication brings some of their short stories and poems together alongside my work. I make a lot of drawings using words or rather of words, and titles have always played quite an important role in the work. Text and language can be very physical, stubborn even, and I try to work with and against that.