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Five Quick Questions: An Interview with our Artist-In-Residence, Thompson Hall

POSTED: 21 April 2022

On taking creative time, space and inspiration - artist Thompson Hall reflects on the first month of his residency at Autograph

Artist Thompson Hall began his three-month long residency at Autograph in March. Once month in, Hall reflects on what the time and space has offered him so far.


1. What does this residency mean to you?
This residency with Autograph has provided time to decide where next to take my work. Being in the studio everyday has given me freedom to think about my ideas at length and to try new things out and see where they might go. It has also given me a chance to switch off from the outside world and go into my own little world, which helps formulate my ideas.

I have a new routine which is less structured, so I have the freedom to be able to work when and how I want without without the pressure of having to create a specific body of work. I have wanted to do a residency for a very long time and felt it had been missing from all of the things I have done and achieved so far.

2. How have you been using the studio space?
I have set up the studio space dividing it into two parts: one a work area and the other a reflective area to sit and think. In my reflective space I have art books and an iPad so I can research or look for possible useful references. I have placed my drawings up around the walls to help inspire me as I look around the space. I find that at different times, different drawings and ideas will stand out and influence my thinking. I am working on easels and table surfaces, creating canvas pieces as well as loose fabric paintings. Working on a flat surface has enabled me to have a much better overview of a piece and be neater with my brush strokes. I am really enjoying this new way of working and having the space to enable me to work like this.

I visited the Life Between Islands exhibition at Tate Britain [...] These artists wanted to play a part in the society that they lived in and tell their stories about the world that they saw around them. They wanted to share their side of the story, and I want to do that too.

3. What does a typical day look like?
When I arrive in the studio I have a cup of tea and read the newspaper headlines. I usually have a plan for the day of what I want to paint and achieve using my drawings as a point of reference. At the start of the week I create a plan for that week, which usually includes a trip to a specific exhibition or a studio visit from someone, relating to the residency.

4. What have you been working on this month and are there any particular themes, references or ideas that have inspired you?
I have already created at least six canvases and about ten loose fabric paintings. These have all been based on the drawings I created during the many lockdowns of 2020 and over the past year. They cover a variety of themes including the anxiety I felt whilst working at home and my thoughts throughout the changing events of lockdown. They also cover the impact and fallout of these lockdowns - the effect on society, on the economy and on the way we live. In lockdown I worked on an iPad which meant I was online and became more aware of the rise of online abuse. This has become another topic of my paintings.

More recent themes are my family history and family background in relation to the theme of empire. My grandfather was Ghanaian and grandmother British. This has given me a lot of themes to build on. The images and symbols in my drawings often come from the internet. I like to look up different topics and find symbols as inspiration. These help me express visually what I want to say. I also like to look at newspaper headlines to help me with my own artwork titles and the wordplay I incorporate in my work.

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5. Which exhibitions have you seen so far and what did you think of them?
I visited the Life Between Islands exhibition at Tate Britain at the start of my residency. These were Caribbean British artists working in post-war Britain. Many of the artists had experience colonial upbringings and later migrated to Britain. It was interesting seeing and listening to the artists’ experiences of how they were treated by the state, the police and by society and how they often felt overlooked. I felt I was seeing a biography of each artist through their work. I felt I had that in common with some of the artists as I often use my own biography to make my work. It made me think more about how people are represented in the times that they live in and how a history of events of the time is so important. These artists wanted to play a part in the society that they lived in and tell their stories about the world that they saw around them. They wanted to share their side of the story, and I want to do that too.

Ronald Moody’s sculptures and Althea McNish’s textiles stood out to me most. Althea McNish has an exhibition at The William Morris Gallery which I visited last week. I really like how she combines her paintings with print techniques to create interesting repeated patterns. I found myself relating to this as some of my own geometric patterns feel similar to hers and I have also used printing in my work. Her colour combinations are eye-catching and make me smile.

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Hall's residency continues until 31 May 2022.

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Find out more about the residency

Thompson Hall has been selected for the first on-site an artist residency at Autograph, to support the development of his creative practice during the Covid-19 crisis. With support from ActionSpace, the residency will take place in Autograph’s building in Hackney, London.

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Acknowledgements

This residency is supported by ActionSpace and is part of the EXPLORERS project. EXPLORERS is a national creative programme for increasing the visibility and representation of neurodivergent artists in contemporary visual art.

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All images on page © and courtesy of the artist and ActionSpace