Thompson Hall’s artist residency at Autograph


In Spring 2022, CVAN London visited London based artist, Thompson Hall in his studio at visual arts charity, Autograph, where he was selected for a first of its kind onsite residency to support the development of his creative practice coming out of Covid-19 lockdown. Supported by ActionSpace, the residency took place in May 2022 and was an open-ended opportunity, providing space to think and create without the expectation of a fixed outcome. Hall was provided with travel expenses, a fee to support the residency, a materials budget, production assistance, a private studio space and access to Autograph’s archives and collection of photography.

The residency is an outcome of Autograph’s ongoing work in collaboration with Project Art Works on the EXPLORERS project, a national creative programme for increasing the visibility and representation of neurodivergent artists in contemporary visual art; and Autograph’s Transforming Leadership programme with Shape Arts, working to understand and break down barriers experienced by marginalised artists in the sector.

Primarily working with acrylic paint and pastel drawings, Hall’s often colourful palette takes inspiration from artists including Chris Ofili and Frank Auerbach. Through abstracted symbols and text, Hall’s work explores the inequalities of society and the world around him, in regards to politics, social change, marginalisation and, most recently, the impact that Covid-19 is having on our society.

During CVAN London’s visit, Thompson discussed these overlapping themes in his work and the barriers to opportunities faced by artists without a formal arts education. Hall urged institutions and galleries to take more risks in their programming, showing artists who are underrepresented and without art school qualifications, seeing this as an opportunity to reach wider audiences and present different perspectives.

Drawing on his family histories and taking inspiration from the patterns and colours of traditional African textiles, Hall presents common links between intuitions with colonialist histories, racial inequalities, and societal attitudes. Using headline statements and phrases, Hall’s paintings present what feels like a collection of visual articles. Looking around the studio, the interconnected themes in Hall’s paintings begin with the exploration of the societal impact of Covid-19, and lead into a more personal exploration of attitudes towards mixed race couples, highlighting societal attitudes and racism. This draws parallels with the way in which systemic racism was highlighted by Covid-19 pandemic.

Thompson Hall said “[The Covid-19 pandemic] has brought up a lot of difficult, awkward issues that people have shied away from for so many years..”

Hall’s paintings are a gentle reminder that there are conversations still to be had, and as arts institutions and galleries begin to reflect on their own histories and practices, it is the diverse led and diversity focused organisations that are leading the way.

Author:  Annesah Al Harbi.

Since his residency at Autograph, Thompson reflects on the impact that his time at Autograph has had.

“My residency at Autograph showed me what I could accomplish given the space and time to concentrate on my practice and develop my work. I had time to experiment and make mistakes, which is important for any artist.  Being at Autograph helped me explore and develop some of the themes I had been thinking about and I am continuing to develop these ideas further. I will, of course, continue to be part of the studio group at ActionSpace as I value my colleagues as peers who share similar experiences to me. But I am also keen to have my own studio so that I can work without distraction and in a more concentrated way.”

Thompson Hall is currently working towards an exhibition with the sculptor Simone Kennedy as part of an Art et Al. X Royal Society of Sculptors Peer/Peer Collaboration Project . Their exhibition will take place at the Royal Society of Sculptors, London in October 2023.

Autograph Gallery will be publishing “Colour is My Signature”, the first monograph of works by Thompson Hall in Autumn 2023.

Artist Thompson Hall with two of his artworks