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What is Really Going on In Our World

By Linsey Young

POSTED: 10 July 2024

Curator Linsey Young highlights the significance of artist Thompson Hall’s work exploring issues of political corruption, the collapse of the welfare state and institutional racism

Earlier this year, Autograph published the first monograph of London based artist Thompson Hall’s work, whose colourful paintings provide an acute commentary on urgent societal issues around race, inequality and social welfare. Titled Colour Is My Signature, the hardcover publication features more than 30 images across 64 pages.

Below, we’ve republished a text from the publication by curator Linsey Young, which provides a contemporary context for the work and highlights the significance of Hall’s unflinching creative explorations of topics such as political corruption, the collapse of the welfare state and institutional racism.

The impact of the state on people’s lives is narrated daily across the media. Government policy is analysed by politicians and broadcasters in abstract ways - the cost of living; rising use of food banks; cuts to mental health services; an inability to access safe and secure social housing - but is spoken about by people who rarely have skin in the game. In recent years cultural organisations have picked up on narratives of ‘care’ and ‘attention’ proclaiming ‘Black Lives Matter’ on their Instagram pages while disproportionately hiring white staff members in senior positions and making pledges about the climate emergency while shipping artworks across the globe and propping up the art world’s obsession with biennales and art fairs. This distanced curiosity, or rumination about the state of the world, bears very little relation to the majority of people's lives.

To have lived in Britain in the past decades is, for many, to have been exposed to a constant state of stress, forced into increasingly restrictive cycles dominated by work. Thompson Hall’s work since 2015 is unequivocally centred on these concerns, on ‘what is really going on in our world’, which he confronts directly through his painting practice, looking unflinchingly at topics such as political corruption, the collapse of the welfare state and institutional racism.

Thompson Hall, My Bedroom, 2016

In 2016 Hall was commissioned by House Biennale and Outside In to make a solo exhibition for Brighton Arts Festival. Titled Home Away From Home, it included a series of paintings responding to the idea of home. The series of works takes us from the elegant exterior of a row of houses to their interiors, employing the bright colours and graphic forms that have become signatures of Hall's work. A neatly depicted bedroom (My Bedroom, 2016) with a single bed, colourful rug and pictures on the walls painted from the perspective of its inhabitant is reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh’s The Bedroom (1888), while a kitchen scene, of washing machine, counters and appliances, speaks to the works of Maureen Scott or Luchita Hurtado, whose depictions of the domestic have a claustrophobic mood that highlights the feeling of mental entrapment which spaces of labour can invoke.

Also included was a series of ‘monster paintings’: interiors that were dislocated, ruptured by spider- or squid-like forms crawling through windows, doorways and fireplaces, consuming and altering the spaces around them, the rippling colours of the room’s walls in Monster Painting (2016) becoming pulsing, psychedelic shapes. Hall has spoken about these works as being a response to the dehumanising experience of a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment, the notorious assessments introduced in 2016 to replace Disability Living Allowance. The process insists on claimants having assessments not with NHS staff but with members of a private company called Capita (it was recently reported that 69% of claimants who have the payments denied later have them reinstated in court if they have the stamina to pursue them that far).¹

Thompson Hall, Tate Britain, 2018

In 2017 – 18 Hall completed a body of work called My Life in London as part of an Unlimited emerging artist commission, spending time exploring his home city, where he chose to focus on the museums and galleries that have so long inspired him. Paintings include depictions of the Royal Academy of Arts, the British Museum and Tate Britain. The paintings are flat, stylised compositions, rendered in bright colour with rhythmic patterns. They look on the surface to be decorative representations of much-loved institutions, but Hall has spoken about his desire to make visible the complexity of these spaces where power is so often in the hands of the elite. The painting British Museum (2018) has a row of Primark shopping bags along its bottom edge and the pattern around Tate Britain (2018) bears a resemblance to an inverted Brooks slave ship diagram. Indeed, Hall has commented in interview that his relationship to these institutions is one mediated through his lived experience as a man of colour of African heritage and that, for him, Tate exists in the shadow of its relationship to the sugar trade and slavery.

Although the use of bold, energetic colour means Hall’s works appear playful, always at their core is an engagement with urgent societal issues around class and race. In confronting powerful institutions head on, Hall makes a highly visible space for those who are so often ignored. As he says: ‘We live by rules and regulations that say you can’t do this and you can’t do that. In my paintings I am trying to tell people how this makes me feel’.

¹ 'Appeals Backlog Rises as Success Rates Fall for All but PIP', 12 March 2023,

order the monograph

Thompson Hall: Colour Is My Signature

Buy the monograph for £15. All sales support Autograph's work.


about the author

Linsey Young

Linsey has held the position of Curator of British Contemporary Art at Tate Britain since 2016. In this role she has delivered commissions with artists such as Pablo Bronstein, Rachel Whiteread and Anthea Hamilton and is lead curator of the Turner Prize when it's held at Tate Britain.

She commissioned and curated Charlie Prodger’s presentation at the Venice Biennale in 2019 and in 2023 she curated the major exhibition and publication project Women In Revolt! exploring art and the women’s movement in the United Kingdom between 1970 and 1990.

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about the artist

Thompson Hall

Thompson Hall is a London based artist. Through abstracted symbols and text, Hall’s work explores the inequalities of society and the world around him regarding politics, social change, marginalisation and, most recently, the impact that Covid-19 has had on our society.

Primarily working with acrylic paint and pastel drawings, Hall’s often colourful palette takes inspiration from artists including Althea McNish, Ronald Moody and Kehinde Wiley. Hall was awarded an Emerging Artist commission and a Micro Grant from Unlimited in 2017 and 2020. He has exhibited in group shows across the UK. He has also had solo exhibitions at Regency Town House in Hove, Brighton Dome, and Glasgow's Project Ability. Thompson Hall is a Resident Artist at ActionSpace. Find out more.

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Part of the project


The national creative programme working towards changing the discourse of how neurodivergent artists are positioned and described in culture.

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Inequality, Marginalisation and Social Change

See more of Hall's works in our online gallery

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Five quick questions

Hall reflects on the first month of his residency at Autograph

Read | 3 min read

Racial Inequality and Social Welfare

A selection of works Hall produced during his residency at Autograph

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Thompson Hall: Colour Is My Signature was published by Autograph as part of the EXPLORERS Project supported by Arts Council England and Paul Hamlyn Foundation. EXPLORERS is a national creative programme for increasing the visibility and representation of neurodivergent artists in contemporary visual art.  We are grateful to Sheena Calvert at .918 Design and the team at Robstolk Amsterdam for all their work on the monograph.

supported by

Banner image: Thomspon Hall, Royal Academy, 2018, from the series My Life in London, supported by Unlimited. Courtesy of the artist and ActionSpace.

Images on page: 1) Thompson Hall, My Bedroom, 2016, from the series Home Away from Home, co-commissioned by HOUSE Biennial and Outside In. Courtesy of the artist and ActionSpace. 2) Thompson Hall, Tate Britain, 2018 from the series My Life in London, supported by Unlimited. Courtesy of the artist and ActionSpace. 3)Linsey Young, photo by Sophie Davidson. 4) Thompson Hall, ABP Autograph [detail], 2018, from the series My Life in London, supported by Unlimited. Courtesy of the artist and ActionSpace.