Through a simplified and stylistic form of painting, Hempel creates a sense of a theatrical charade. His figures are suggested as impostors, knowing hypocrites or deceptive pawns of unseen and elaborate fictions. Hempel uses painting as a tool of illusion. His dream-like and surreal forms don’t pretend a reality, but constantly reinforce their staged-ness. Reminiscent of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘epic theatre’, Hempel’s formalist compositions and puppet-like figures don’t provoke emotional engagement, but rather the viewer’s detached critical reaction to the presented narrative. In portraits such as Richard Wright, Hempel sets up scenes of plausible mystery and adventure as analogies of the viewer’s self-reflection and moral judgement.

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