British artist, writer, curator and former Goldsmiths tutor and Honorary Fellow Jon Thompson - a key figure in the development of art in postwar Britain - has died aged 80.
Thompson became Head of the Department of Art at Goldsmiths in the late 1970s, and is credited with opening up specialisms - allowing students to work freely between different media. He also introduced mixed year groups in the studios, which created a radically new kind of pedagogical experience for tutors and students alike.
By the late 1980s under Thompson’s leadership, Goldsmiths had become the art programme of choice for an ambitious and radical new generation of artists. Many of these were involved in Damien Hirst’s legendary Freeze warehouse exhibition in 1988, and came to be associated with the so-called YBA movment.
It is Thompson who accepted Hirst onto his Goldsmiths degree. Other former students include Richard Deacon, Mark Wallinger and Steve McQueen.
In an interview with Goldsmiths’ current Head of Art Richard Noble, the artist Michael Craig-Martin recalls: “Jon Thompson was totally passionate about teaching and about art education. Our idea was to completely renew the idea of art education, which was very much Jon’s agenda. We were going to re-invent British art education.”
Craig-Martin has also described Thompson as “the most original and gifted art educationalist of Britain in the past 45 years... A brilliant teacher: intelligent, sympathetic, articulate.”
An artist whose work moved from painting to conceptual photography and sculpture, Thompson was later appointed head of the MA Fine Art at Middlesex, and named an Honorary Fellow of Goldsmiths in 2003.