Multidisciplinary artist and a-n member Gemma Thompson works across drawing, print and sound to record the sonic experience of place. Reimagining sound as a physical presence, her printmaking explores the potential of multiplicity and the opportunity to enlarge drawn marks to create immersive spaces through traditional and digital techniques.

A graduate of Camberwell College of Arts, earlier this year Thompson was the recipient of the £2,000 Working Drawing Award as part of the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize. She also took part in London Grads Now 21 at Saatchi Gallery, as well as Flux at Espacio Gallery, London, as part of the regroup collective.

Here Thompson reflects on her personal highlights from the last 12 months, including balancing her art practice with parenthood, and the impact of taking part in the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize.

Gemma Thompson, Untitled (Graphic Score for Quartet), 2022

What kind of a year has 2022 been for you?
This year has been one of dramatic change because I gave birth to my first child in August. I had envisioned the year to be full of projects based at Artichoke Print Workshop, but instead I had to think about how to use non-toxic processes in my small studio. It was actually exciting to have constraints which made me completely focus on observational drawing – the essence of my practice.

This year was the perfect time to explore woodcut and wood engraving whilst processes such as etching and lithography were put on hold. Drawing, walking and listening continued to be my starting point. Because my work begins with a listening practice inspired by the composer Pauline Oliveros I couldn’t help but think about what my baby was starting to hear – I imagined the muffled sounds of the outside world mingling with the pulse of my body.

I’ve always found myself juggling multiple projects and ideas, often beginning the next thing before finishing the previous, but I became more aware of limitations such as time and energy levels so I concentrated on completing one piece at a time. I also enjoyed the self-sufficiency of working with a minimal set-up (much like the approach during the lockdowns).

This year I was also excited to be part of regroup, a small collective of like-minded artists seeking to exhibit together and discuss the contradictions and connections of our work, and it gave me the opportunity to exhibit my work in a couple of group shows. I was also busy preparing a reflective paper to present at the multidisciplinary printmaking conference IMPACT 12 in September. I used this opportunity to reflect on my practice by writing about a series of graphic scores in the form of etchings that were shared with musicians. I have always found that writing about my process has allowed me to understand it more and inevitably opens a path forward.

Shortly after writing this paper I began the large drawing Score for quartet that would be exhibited at the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize. I was also invited to present my work as part of a conference of soundwalking at Concordia University in Montreal, which greatly encouraged me to keep moving forward with my practice. Overall, it has been a year of reflection and making, while building up to a period of slowness before the next year begins.

What has changed for the better?
I have embraced the role of ‘mother’ alongside the role of ‘artist’. I am encouraged by the memory of reading Paul Klee’s diary in which he intertwined the development of his child with his own practice. I am also deeply inspired and in awe of fellow artists who are finding their own balance of motherhood and artistic practice.

What do you wish had happened this year that hadn’t happened?
I wish that women’s rights worldwide had moved forwards rather than backwards. I also wish peace would come at last for the people of Ukraine.

What would you characterise as your major achievement this year and why?
My husband and I welcomed into the world our little boy Francis. He has brought us overwhelming joy as we watch his awareness grow.

How will participating in the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize impact your practice in future?
Winning the Working Drawing Award has really given me the encouragement to push forward with my graphic scores and larger scale work. I have always been drawn to the working drawings in particular because I love the idea of a transformation from a drawing into another form – for me, it’s listening into drawing, then a transformation back into sound (as a cyclical process).

Gemma Thompson, One sound (cacophony), graphite on paper

Is there anything you’d like to have done but haven’t?
I would have liked to have developed the sonic side of my work with more recording and performance alongside the works on paper. I always feel that this aspect of my work is missing when I exhibit the graphic scores. I am currently documenting the sonic responses using Soundcloud, but I feel like this is definitely something that I need to push forward.

What are you looking forward to in 2023?
Getting back into the print studio to etch my collection of plates. I am also really looking forward to working on recording and performing musically in response to some of my graphic scores. I spent many years as a professional guitarist and my partner is a drummer, so we both have a lot of work on the horizon. The last time we performed live was in February 2020!

Gemma Thompson’s work can be viewed as part of the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize, currently on show at the Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery, Basingstoke, until 22 Jan 2023