Artists in Quarantine: Jemma Gunning

Part of our series Artists in Quarantine. We talk about the lives, interests and concerns of artists during the lockdown.

Jemma Gunning is an artist based in Bristol and works with etching and lithography, she also works as a technician at UWE and run workshops with Bristol Print Collective.


Printmaking has kept me sane through the last few months. I’m lucky enough to live just across the road from my studio – part of the new Estate of the Arts in Bristol. I’ve been there almost every day since the lockdown began, although I did have a backup plan of using my pasta maker as a makeshift printing press at home (actually quite fun, and surprisingly effective).

There are normally 30 to 40 artists in the building, but now there are only 3 or 4 of us knocking about. It’s been eerily quiet for somewhere that always had a such a great buzz around it. We worked out a routine for cleaning – bleaching the door handles and toilets every three hours, hand sanitiser at every door, and the kitchen (where we normally make chit chat) is strictly off-limits.

Artists in Quarantine: Jemma Gunning - House of Prints

My work has always been about sites, and physically visiting them is important. When lockdown started, I was finishing a project in Birmingham, then I was supposed to go to Venice for seven weeks, so I didn’t have any other work lined up. I’ve already made work about most of the interesting sites around me, and I don’t feel like I can go back to them because that chapter has concluded. I couldn’t make anything new. I felt like I was in mourning because everything had changed. Ruins and Decay is something I deal with a lot in my work, but to see the dramatic changes happening in front of my eyes was overwhelming.

I’ve ended up doing a lot of other things: I’ve painted my litho press bright green which makes me very happy, I’ve made clothes, made a lot of banana bread, cooked a lot of food. I’ve felt the need to draw, so I’ve been taking my sketchbooks out for my walks. One of the best things is that I’ve managed to get to grips with my lithographic press. I’ve had it for ages, but never had the time to get to know it. It’s brilliant to be able to use it well.

Artists in Quarantine: Jemma Gunning - House of Prints

I also work as a printmaking technician at UWE and run workshops as part of the Bristol Print Collective, so my practice usually brings me close to people. I really miss discovering new things with my students and the social side of my work. I miss teaching and talking and connecting with people. I don’t have any family in Bristol, but my mum lives in Wiltshire. When the lockdown eased in early June, we travelled up to see her for her birthday. We bought her a double mattress protector, so we could wrap her up and give her a hug – ‘Happy Birthday!’. It was nice to see her (first time since February), and to hug her even if she’s in crinkly plastic – there is a light at the end of the tunnel.


See Jemma’s work in our shop.