April 19, 2024

The Guided Hand: Exploring Madge Gill's Mediumistic Art With Vivienne Roberts

The Guided Hand: Exploring Madge Gill's Mediumistic Art With Vivienne Roberts

Madge Gill (1882-1961) stands as an enigmatic figure in the world of art, revered as one of the most highly regarded self-taught artists of her time. Her artistic journey is as remarkable as it is mysterious, deeply intertwined with the spiritual realm. Gill's mediumistic art, created under the guidance of her spirit guide Myrninerest, transcends conventional boundaries, offering viewers a glimpse into the ethereal and the unseen.

My Special Guest Is Vivienne Roberts

Vivienne Roberts is the curator and archivist at The College of Psychic Studies in London, where she cares for their large collection of spirit inspired art, photographs and artefacts from 1850 to the present day. This unusual archive, along with the College’s specialist esoteric library, has offered Vivienne the opportunity to immerse herself in a wealth of primary material and has been instrumental in helping her curate a series of large exhibitions, including: Encounters with the Spirit World (2016), Art & Spirit: Visions of Wonder (2019), Strange Things Among Us (2021) and Creative Spirits (2022). Vivienne’s art specialism is the history of mediumistic art with particular attention to its women practitioners like Madge Gill. She has established the websites mediumisticart.com, georgianahoughton.com and madgegill.com and has published numerous articles and exhibition catalogue contributions. Vivienne is a member of the Visionary Women Research Group and the British Art Network.


Madge Gill

Born in 1882, Madge Gill's early life was marked by tragedy, losing her mother shortly after birth and being raised in an orphanage. Despite the challenges she faced, Gill's innate creativity found expression through art, which she pursued fervently throughout her life. It wasn't until later in adulthood that Gill's mediumistic abilities began to manifest, leading her to channel her artistic endeavours through the influence of Myrninerest.

Working under Myrninerest's control, Gill's art took on a mystical quality, characterised by intricate patterns, symbolic imagery, and a sense of otherworldly beauty. Her pieces often feature intricate line work, bold contrasts, and a mesmerising depth that captivates viewers and invites contemplation.

Throughout her life, Gill remained dedicated to her art, creating a vast body of work that continues to inspire and intrigue audiences worldwide.

In this episode, you will be able to:

1. Explore what mediumistic art is.

2. Discover more about Madge Gill and her art.

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Welcome dear listeners to another episode of Haunted History Chronicles, where we delve into the mystical and mysterious tales that linger in the shadows of our past.

Today, we embark on a journey through the world of media, Mystic art and artist Madge Gill.


Madge Gill was born in 1882 and departed this world in 1961.

She left behind a legacy that continues to captivate and intrigue.

A self-taught artist of unparalleled talent.

Her works, evoca Realm were the boundaries between the physical and spiritual blur into a mesmerizing tapestry of ink and emotion.


But who was Madge Gill and what drove her to create such hauntingly beautiful art?

Joining us today is Vivian Roberts, curator and Archivist at the College of Psychic Studies in London.

With a deep understanding of medium Mystic art and its practitioners, Vivian sheds light on the enigmatic figure of Madge Gill and the profound impact of her work on the world of outsider art.


Together, we will explore the personal grief and emotional difficulties that Madge endured and shrouded her life and art, exploring the depths of her creative genius and the enduring legacy she left behind.

So sit back as we journey into the realms of the unknown and discover the magic of Madge Gill.


And her mediumistic art.

Hi, Vivian.

Thank you so much for joining me today.

Do you want to just start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your background and the very many different hats that you have in terms of what you do on a day-to-day basis?


Yes, yes.

Thank you for inviting me onto your podcast.

Yes, it's true.

It's difficult to choose a subject that we could sort of drill down on and look at in in sort of without getting involved in the entirety of all of the artists that I look at.


But generally I look after sort of I research into mediumistic artists and particularly women practitioners.

At the moment, I am the curator of the College of Psychic Studies in S Kenton in London, and I've been lucky enough for several years now to look after their amazing collection of Treasures of Medium Mystic Art.


And so that enabled me to have access to sort of primary material and put on some really extraordinary shows which started around sort of a 2016 things like encounters with the spirit world or Strange things Among us as such as couple of the titles that we did on three or four shows there.


But also on the side that I've got various websites.

So one devoted to the art of magic, Gill, another to Georgiana Houghton, and also to mediumistic art in general.

So I do a lot of researching, writing catalogue entries and and creating my own collection of this type of art, which I'm completely fascinated by.


We're going to be talking about Madge Gill today.

Do you want to just start by kind of explaining what what it was that drew you to her art, what it was that got you interested in initially and what she produced and and her herself?

Yes, yes.

So it's quite interesting.


I was I met Roger Cardinal at a surrealist symposium back in 1999, two thousand around that time, and he was the sort of the first scholar to devote considerable time into learning about margins, 1970s.


He actually devoted a chapter to her in his book Outsider Art in 1972, and curated some shows of media.

Mr. Cart around that time and when I met him, I'd never heard of Madge.

And I had to confess this to him because one of his first questions was, have you ever heard of Madge Gill?


And I said, oh, I don't, I haven't heard of her.

He said we we really should, you know, you should go and go and look her up immediately.

And so that's what I did and I just became fascinated and I just tried to get all the material known about her at that time and started to collect a few of her works and and it's never left since And she's I think been with me on my journey throughout to research in mediumistic art and and led me to some incredible places.


If it wasn't for her research in her, I wouldn't have ended up at the College of Psychic Studies for, for example.

And I suppose the the kind of the next really important touching point before we really dive into Madge Gill herself and her art is really defining, I suppose, what mediumistic art is and how it differs from other forms of artistic expression.


Yes, that's a good question.

I mean, put simply, I think mediumistic art is art that's been created by a person referred to as a medium under the influence of or in collaboration with discarner entities, and executed while in some form of altered state of consciousness ranging from passive contemplation to to full trance.


This could be where the medium is able to have a conversation, for example, whilst working through to having no knowledge whatsoever of what they've produced until after the event.

And in that case the mediums really are often very surprised or shocked by what they've created.


It's it's an art form really derived from the spiritualist movement from the mid 19th century, which wasn't just for giving comfort to the bereaved by being able to contact friends and relatives that have died.

But it also challenged patriarchal structures, for example religious dogma and scientific empiricism.


And as a product of this radical movement, Mediumistic arts I think can be held up as evidence of these challenges, as well as an interface between the physical and metaphysical realms.

For me, I think it's an art that's imbued with invisible energies and the ability to provoke thought or inspire ring hope and comfort to to the viewers.


And I suppose the main difference from other forms of artistic expression, where the artist is usually the originator of the artwork, is that mediumistic art is created under the guidance of an unseen entity.

Therefore I think it's there's usually no preconceived idea of the outcome, so the medium finds themselves simultaneously in a position of creator and audience, which is which is very different from say normal artists would be.


Whilst it shares I think, similar qualities to other forms of artistic impression, mediumistic art often had unusual methods of production, enforcing the notion that the mediumistic art was led by some mysterious force.

So for example, I think there's reports of mediums watching with disbelief as their hand flies like a like a flywheel, mind boggling speed as if super powered by unsub supernatural energies.


And that the art can be executed effortlessly using all manner of sort of media and implements for example precision that divide human competence.

Competence was also another attribute where art was executed faster than the conscious brain could compute, or in microscopic detail, and both.


With both of those, there was very, very seldom mistakes.

You often don't find mistakes in in this type of artwork.

Other supernormal feats that surpassed human capabilities could be observed, such as drawing blindfolded using either hand, arms kept in really awkward positions for many hours without fatigue.


Practitioners tended to be really prolific, work for long periods of time in trance States and yet afterwards just feel rested, feeling quite elated, even normal.

And also the subject matter.

Of course that was equally non conformist and the more this pushed boundaries of traditional art, the more likely it was to harness belief in observers.


Strange esoteric symbols, ancient languages, primordial creatures, I don't know, fairies, elementals, nature spirits, extraterrestrial figures, planetary landscapes and could go on dwelling abstract auras, vibrating energies, thought forms, as well as beautiful spiritual flora and fauna.


They all became very the norms for mediumistic art.

And I think you raised something really important there, which is that kind of dual role that the artist therefore is going to play in terms of the creation.

Because like you mentioned, they are the the participant and also the observer because there is this unseen influence that is guiding them.


So they are creating, but they're also not necessarily conscious of of how it's getting that, that driving of how it's being produced is coming from something else.

So I imagine then there is this very interesting kind of moment when the work is produced and they can see it for the first time.


Because if these are creations from something else, it must be so unknown.

There must, there must be examples where the, the, the imagery is something very unknown.

These worlds that they created, or the art that is it has been inspired on the page and created in that manner, is something not part of their sphere, not not part of their everyday consciousness.


Yes, that's right.

They might realise that they have drawn something that they have no knowledge of.

I mean, often some of these works have text in them as well, and that might be in unknown languages.

There might be sort of symbols glyphs and things like that that they that baffle them and and actually that's quite interesting because then that leads the artist to sort of push themselves maybe out of their sort of comfort zone and and to kind of investigate what their artworks mean or to discuss it with other people like minded people.


It might take them to sort of spiritual churches, for example, and just to try and find out more about it, it must have been exciting but also maybe a bit scary in some cases.

So the artist was kind of taking on the role of a medium, like a like a spiritual conduit.


And so they were sort of conveying these messages from this otherworldly place, which might have this sort of inherent wisdom in it that the artist then felt that they should sort of share, share with people, some, some artists there, some mediums.


They didn't see themselves just as sort of mere instruments, if you like.

They also had felt like they had some more agency in the production of their works.

So they felt that maybe they had some artistic training and they felt that that was very useful for the spirit world to use.


So they would sort of work duo dynamically in a collaboration with this sort of invisible entity, and they felt that that very much was part of the practice.

Others believe though, that their complete lack of knowledge enabled a flow from the spiritual realm unhindered by any sort of conscious will.


So you had this kind of spectrum of how the artist felt that they were working with the spirit world?

And I suppose that then produces the richness and the variety in terms of the approach, the process and then the outcome.

You know it.


It's that like you said, it's that spectrum, it nothing fits neatly into one one-size-fits-all.

And I think that adds to the uniqueness and the interesting aspect.

When you then start diving into these, you know the the individuals in in question and their art, because each one is so unique and that's what what's so fascinating and the enduring part of them wanting to find out more and appreciate them for the art and the artistry behind them as well as the individual.


Yes, I absolutely agree.

I mean I think one of the things that does bring all of the artists together was they felt somehow blessed.

They were bestowed with this very special gift and they took the role seriously, whether they had little input or a lot of input.

And they believed that this, this was had a purpose and this was going to benefit mankind.


It was sort of bigger than them and so yes, definitely they were all working so slightly differently but also with a under a bigger aim bringing together and they would have felt that there were kindred spirits out there that they could find and and help them to understand.


So it was is a must have been a fascinating time particularly at the beginning when this hadn't been heard of before.

By the time Madge came, there was there was people in the past, historically, that she could sort of learn about or maybe come across.

Didn't feel that she was quite so alone.


But for some, those early pioneers, it must have been incredibly interesting.


So does mediumistic hearts kind of sit solely within the context of spiritualism, or do you think it holds that broader cultural and artistic significance?


I think.

I think it's spiritual.

Context is important as the works can be regarded.

It's sort of as messages, you know, the unlocking the hidden knowledge about the universe of cosmos.

But and it can give sort of hope and comfort to the bereaved that there is something out there, you know, more than bodily death.


There's a sort of survival of consciousness and for many it's art that is imbued with with a lovely sort of healing energy and they feel very one with the work and it's sort of harmonious.

So I think the spiritual contest is really important.

However, absolutely it definitely holds a broader artistic and cultural significance.


I think I mean historically and probably even today, the majority of it's practitioners have been women and therefore it's art that has challenged patriarchal dominance.

It's it's not surprising the age we live in now, when we're addressing inequality.


And for decades, centuries, even women's art has been overlooked, not taken as seriously as male counterparts.

Mediumistic art in particular.

It's receiving considerable attention because it's a genre of art where women held sway, they flourished, they had a voice, and that's coming forward.


So I think that that's very significant from an artistic point of view.

I think we can see mediumistic art stretch beyond spiritualism when thinking about its influence, say for example in other art movements such as surrealism, which adopted mediums, automatic techniques and drew fascination from art produced in altered states of consciousness.


And I think another another area is abstract arts.

So that's really sort of open for discussion and it's ongoing now with artists like Hillmouth, Clint and Emma Kerns, Georgiana Houghton coming through that mediums were intuitively creating non representational art decades before the onset of modded abstraction.


So I think that's another area that is very prominent at the moment.

Starting to think about Madge Gill, who is obviously the person that you're going to be focusing on today.

Do you want to tell us a little bit about her, her background, her life?

Because I imagine some of her personal experiences and influences kind of formed part of that journey into her mediumistic.



Yes, yes, they they definitely did.

Madge Gill had so many adversities in life and the fact that something came out of this life so beautiful and is still now creating ore and fascination in an audience, I think is is just wonderful.


I mean, just to go back to the very beginning, she was born illegitimately in East London or Walden Stowe and brought up by a foster parent because her mother didn't want to or couldn't look after her.

Or maybe she was a sort of a bit of a a secret She was then, after they couldn't afford to keep her there anymore, placed her into Doctor Bernardo's home.


And then from there there was a there was a movement at the time to take unprivileged children to Canada for a better life.

And so Madge was then sent off to Canada for years working on a farm, working as a sort of a home help.


And she hated it.

I couldn't get back quickly enough.

I mean she eventually got back I think as a young woman, 1819 years old, so.

So she had a lot to endure with that.

But also when she did come back, she married her first cousin.


So she actually effectively married into the family that had abandoned her, which is quite unusual.

And sadly, that marriage wasn't a happy one.

I think it possibly wasn't the beginning, but then slowly when the war happened, he came back and couldn't find work.


There's a lot of extra pressures at that point and it started to sort of breakdown.

She also suffered terrible illnesses.

I mean, she had, she had cancer of the eye she lost.

She lost an eye to that.


She had several miscarriages leaving her bed bound for long periods of time.

She had septicemia.

She'd lost all her teeth.

It was just sadness also, but emotional trauma, where she lost a son, her beloved Reggie, when he was just young young boy, and that was to the flu pandemic of 1918.


And shortly after that, she actually gave birth to a stillborn girl, the girl that she'd really wanted.

And so she had the trauma of and heartache of living with that.

So if you kind of pull all of these together, you can understand how something had to change, had to give.


It must have been really difficult for her to sort of live with.

And common gateways to mediumship include illness and sudden or prolonged emotional trauma, trauma, near death experiences like she had, and bereavement or sort of a profound vision of experience maybe as well, maybe a spiritual epiphany, a magic experience, all of those.


So along with all of that illness and with the bereavement, she actually one day went out into the garden.

She felt this kind of compulsion to go out into the garden and she was singing home sweet home at the top of her voice And and suddenly she looked up into the sky and she saw Christ with angels all around.


And it was this epiphany that happened.

And when she went back in she just knew that she felt that she had to pick up a pen and she was starting to write and draw.

So these life changing experiences absolutely culminated in manifesting a creative outlet which led to her spontaneous and overwhelming urge to create.


And at that point her sort of journey began and that was around that was 1920s, March 1920s.

Some reports say 1919.

But I think for me all the research I've done sort of I'm happy with 1920 as as the year and and that was that moment.


It all changed from then.

So what role did Maggill's spirit guide play in shaping her artistic output and that creative process?


Madge Gill's guide was called my Interest, and she had a huge role in shaping her artistic output.


I mean, she was Madge's constant companion throughout her creative life, and the reason that Madge felt so compelled to create.

Madge did say that the work didn't really even belong to her, but they were from another world, so therefore they belong to my interest.

And that's the reason that she didn't really sell works while she was alive, because she felt she wasn't the really true owner.


But whilst my inner S gave Madge the reason to create, it's unlikely she dictated, I think, the style, so that's something different.

I think Madge intuitively created that work, maybe with other things too.

But I think with my interest, the importance of we don't actually know where that name came from or why she was called my inner S But many people have seen it broken up into as my inner breast.


And I think that kind of gives the idea of how she felt about this guide, that it was someone that was helping, healing and and guiding her.

Another reason that she might have called her my own arrest.

I found on the back of one of the postcards it's broken up again into this sort of broken words, but on the other side it said my children, the children of the east.


So we could look at it that Maji's spirit guide has something to do with children and loss and and her being part of that, bringing those consciousnesses or souls back together if you like.

So I think, yes, a huge role my interest played in her work.


You know, obviously we've touched upon the difficulties that Maj. experienced in terms of the trauma, the grief, the challenges that she had growing up and then the losses and and the bereavement that she suffered.

How did that play through into her art?


And, you know, particularly in relation to those themes of mass and spiritual connection.

I I think it gave her art.


It gave her life purpose.

I think her art was was really the purpose to be.

It must have been a hugely cathartic practice enabled her to heal from the suffering that she'd endured.


I don't think she did it for other reasons.

Sort of like, you know, people giving her money or you know, any form of sort of aesthetic appearance or sort of people giving her good press, if you like.

I mean, that did come.

People were very impressed with her work, but I don't think she did it for those reasons.


I feel like her art was this, this lovely life's purpose, this spiritual meaning.

She felt her work was really important.

It was something that she was giving to society.

It, it unlocked keys.

In it there was wisdom, there was messages.


I would say though that actually the art was itself the challenge for for a lot of her life as well.

So she was a quiet woman.

She was introverted but had to reach out to others, had to sort of put herself out there, giving few interviews, having her work disgusted in in the, in the, in the newspapers.


So I think that must have been very, very difficult.

And then one occasion she actually wrote to a friend saying oh oh I wish I could be normal.

So, So she felt the burden of of her creativity.

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Has only just begun.

I'm curious as to kind of the body of her work in terms of the plethora, the range.


I mean, how how many pieces of art are we talking about in terms of a rough estimate as to what she was producing?

Oh, there's thousands, thousands of thousands of her artworks over there, particularly because she did things from from tiny postcards to all the way to absolutely gigantic works on on Calico.


She also did embroideries.

She did writing, although a lot of those writings were destroyed.

So there there are a lot out there.

There's thousands of works out there, which I think is a great thing because it it's affordable for for every every budget.


You know, people can go out there.

They could buy a small postcard.

I've got many in my collection and I absolutely love them.

They they're so special, they're like little jewels.

So she, she did a lot of work.

There's work in the secondary market that'll come up at auction, but also in in collections too.


So what would you say distinguishers her mediumistic art from other forms of outsider art?

Both, you know, in terms of the themes and the style.

You know, what is it that's so significant about what she was doing in terms of the art that she was producing?


Although there are sometimes similarities in themes and styles, I mean I see non mediumistic outsider artists as just wonderfully unique.

You know, pushing all boundaries in their creativity.

They're individual non conformist creators who self-taught status and sadly pulled them together under the umbrella of outsider art.


I mean it's a really dislike label that continues to be hotly debated today.

But when it comes to mediumistic artists, whilst they're equally non conformist due to their communication with the otherworldly, they're much more aligned with each other and sharing techniques of automatism which produce kindred styles of sort of flowing, harmonious works of art with similar forms and motifs in them.


They can be trained and untrained, some working in spiritualist groups and often really aware of other artistic practices.

Madge was an autodidact, so she wasn't, but she wasn't creating artwork in a vacuum, although she can, because she was self-taught, can be classed as you know, very much an outsider artist.


But she was really aware of other spiritual groups she showed in spiritual churches and at their congresses.

She and her family were members of the Theosophical Society.

So where Isa Terry Carr was often described and discussed in the periodicals, her arts are, I think, significant because it reflected culture in the time that it was created.


I mean, at that point there was huge technological advances, sort of wireless, like Marconi for example.

So there was this kind of urge to look at the invisible and see what these emanations look like, giving them form.

She exhibited regularly in public galleries, was asked on numerous occasions to show her work in commercial galleries.


But as we discussed earlier, she always said no to that because of the spiritual nature of the work.

I don't think she would have agreed with outsider arts dismissal of of spirit guides stating that they're sort of merely inventions by humble working class creators like Madge to cover up their uncomfortableness of calling themselves artists.


I don't think that she would have particularly liked that, which sadly that's kind of what's happened.

And another reason, I think, why Madge is significant, it's just her boldness in creating works of art that are just huge.

I mean, that pushes the boundaries of meeting Mr. Carter's a genre.


I mean, there's a story.

I love this when she showed 108 feet of her work at Whitechapel Gallery at the end of 1938 and that made Picasso's masterpiece, Guernica looking tiny at 25 feet when that was showing in exactly the same place just a few weeks later, the following year, actually.


Incidentally, she showed 120 feet and then had to apologise when one year she was only able to complete 80 feet because she'd run out of inspiration, her son said.

So that's.


I mean, I the fact alone that, you know, she is pushing those boundaries and having the ability to display her artwork alongside people like Picasa, you know, that's no small feat.


But then I I think it's I think it's interesting that you raise something that I do think is very valid in terms of how she would have been perceived and other artists of her of her type would have been perceived by the more conformist artists in terms of what they saw the work and the body of work as representing.


And was this just somebody simply trying to elevate their art and what they were doing by bringing in something a bit magical and a bit mystical to inflate the the product in some way to to make it stand out a bit more.


Because this was something being produced in this manner.

And therefore it's it's not some, like you mentioned, no working class humdrum housewife creating something in their back room.

But instead here is someone creating this piece of art through the through the kind of the process of a spirit guide.


And so it it it's that kind of poking fun, that mockery, that disdain that you can see.

And yet obviously there was a demand for it and people did very, very well.

As you said, it was a means for some to really flourish and to showcase beautiful artistic, artistic work and style whilst also telling very beautiful spiritual stories and and for people to be able to connect with them in unique and individualistic ways.


And so it it's fascinating that I think both of those things really are something very important that resonate and and shouldn't be forgotten about this type of artistic genre.

I agree.

I mean she definitely came to the notice of many people and and even though she was sort of from the East End exhibiting yearly in the Eastern Academies, it was very it was in, it was in the White Chapel Gallery.


You know, she was coming to the notice of people like Julian Trevellian who was well known at that time.

He actually visited her house and recalls that in his book Indigo Days, about standing on stalls while the family were unravelling these huge rolls of these incredible artworks, that he said that all you had to do was swap the otherworldly for the subconscious and you were getting surrealism, you know.


So he was talking about her in in the parlance of modern art and and I think that is it is a wonderful thing and it's not just much that often happened to some of the other mediumistic artists.

You're absolutely right.

These artists were brave and big and bold and and came to the notice and we hope we don't know so much more's coming out now but how much did they inspire?


For example, going back to historical times, Georgiana Houghton showed 155 of her spirit works in Bond Street in a gallery there when people were wandering up and down the street like you know Monet or Whistler and and so it's it's fascinating to to maybe.


Hopefully we'll keep learning more and more as more about this genre of art comes to light.

So what insights can we kind of divulge and and and gain from Mad Gill's letters and another personal correspondence that really kind of helps give us insight into her inner world or the artistic motivations?


Do we learn anything from those mediums about her?

I think, I mean, there isn't a huge amount of her personal correspondence that survives, in particular with regard to the early days of her work, which would really would have helped explain how she felt about my interest or who my my interest was.


That would have been great.

There were pages of automatic writing and a few of those still exist.

So they're kind of like streams of consciousness, full of biblical references.

Other sheets of paper ham are full of symbols and glyphs that can't be interpreted, but give an indication into her communicate communication with this otherworldly.


She said that her drawings were guided and contained knowledge from other worlds that could help society if they were understood.

So we'd know there's a meaning there, know that they they have a purpose.

And she definitely felt that with her art, as well indicated in the art are all these sort of little clues.


There's words, you know, there's people written on the back like Arthur Conan Doyle or Swedenborg.

You know, some big spiritual leaders.

Camille Flammarion, who was president of the Society of Psychical Research at the time.

So we we know there's some knowledge coming in and some words of that, so that gives an indication.


Her son wrote a short broadsheet in 1925 that helped to explain her process and he talked about her, you know, all day the medium was in a trance.

So very much talking in spiritual, spiritualist and theosophical language.


So that that helps us to understand a bit more.

Her medical records have been great.

I mean that's given us clues about her childhood, her love of children and very much the sort of spiritual nature of the work, which incidentally, she'd spent some time in hospital from a nervous breakdown.


But when she came back from that, you know, about two months later, she carried on with her work.

So you could sort of separate the idea that this work came from a a medical problem Actually it carried on for the next 40 years when she was very well and and OK some of these documents in the medical files gave indications of the marriage breaking down and how she felt about sort of men and how she'd suffered as a woman.


So that's another interesting indication of what she was thinking.

They also it notes of how she was giving character readings to other patients and and giving them sort of ideas about maybe their future.


And so that was coming about that she definitely had a sort of an understanding of astrology and horoscopes and eventually she actually tried to do that by putting adverts in a local press in in the 30s as well under the name of Carmastra, which was interesting.


So there's lots of references that we can glean things.

They'd be lovely if there was sort of an account.

She gave a couple of interviews and so that was really, really helpful as well because there she talked about invisible energies and things that she was able to see cyclically, so lights glowing all around her work, for example, auras around people.


So I think that was really important and maybe stylistically that's come in when you see like a lot of all these forms that are.

Surrounding the figures of those enigmatic female faces, another letter talks about her exhibiting her artwork.


So and being excited by the prospect.

And later on I found out that that exhibition was really a turn point for spirit in the spiritual circles because it was part of a Congress that took place in Belgium, in Liege in Belgium.


And it was Arthur Conan Dawn no less that was leading that the UK delegation out there.

And later on he actually in, he had a psychic bookshop in in London and one of the books was a book called The Spirit of Irene And he he had that in the museum there, museum there and the bookshop and if you looked at the inside covers there were magic drawings and so that for her work to be published 1923 that was very early on.


So that was really good as well.

Gosh, I mean, it's just, I mean, it's incredible.

And I think given that she was so private, it must make you know the snippets that you get that she's written or the snippets of things that you can you can learn from, you know first hand interviews with her as well as then these secondary materials from other people must be so important because it must have been the, the difficult part of of her within this role given that she was so private that doing something that was about putting something out into the public.


So it's a kind of a a contentious relationship as a participant in that case to have to be in that position.

So it must make whatever evidence there is just a little bit more special and significant in terms of what it does reveal that those kind of things that link back to her.



I mean, there's nothing better than finding a little snippet that slots something else into place, you know, maybe.

I mean, one day I was at work at the college and I found in the their newspaper, which has been going since the 1880s.


And in 1922, there was this tiny little snippet of talking about MATCH and an interview with this lady from Upton Park who was doing these otherworldly drawings.

And it was like, oh, that's just marvellous because any number of spiritualists could have read that and and then take that in whatever direction it went in.


So yes, definitely and and there's been some marvellous little things that have been unnerved.

I've I've got a calico, a small calico in my collection, which I absolutely adore.

But it came with a letter and the letter talks about the previous owner that as a boy he knew match and he turned around to match one day.


And he said, do you think, do you think what will I be in in the future?

And she said, she said, oh, you'll be famous in a book, something like that.

And I was just like these.

Those tiny little things are just so rich and and wonderful to find and read.


So you mentioned earlier how Marge obviously suffered very terribly with some terrible physical complaints, conditions and personal struggles obviously that we've also touched upon.

How did, how did that directly impact, did it directly impact her art in terms of the subject matter or when it how she could do it in terms of that physical strength, ability etcetera given that you know she had quite significant things to overcome losing an eye as you mentioned.


I mean, how does that then impact?

On her art.

If at all.

Yeah, I think it All of those led to the creativity and from that moment it had a life of its own.

And and so for her, she could work for long periods.


She could often work standing up.

She worked on such large, large reams of calico and rolls of paper that her son had to construct a sort of rolling machine where she could keep on rolling because there wasn't the size in her house to be able to look at anything in its entirety until it went off to the Whitechapel Gallery to be to be exhibited.


But I'm not sure.

I think the style or subject matter evolved much after all of these things.

I mean, there were sort of some cases of it.

For example, the hardships of war meant that materials weren't always easy to get hold of, so that definitely potentially could have affected her artwork as so there.


At that point many of her artworks were on scraps of paper or cardboard.

One time her son had a motorbike accident and so she nursed him and she sat by his bed day and night for long long periods of time, months and so she drew on small postcards with with very little light.


She didn't need as much light, she often drew in semi darkness.

Not much of her work stated, so it's actually quite hard to work out what was produced at certain times.

So one thing that did evolve was that scale that I mentioned.

So I mean that was such an extraordinary thing for a woman at the time doing that, The subject matter, she always drew the same thing.


So it was these enigmatic, beautiful, ethereal looking women.

It was like the botanical and the geometric abstract forms, and they kept coming back interchangeably at all different times.

So I don't see that there was a sort of a natural evolvement of her work.


It was just all there and she was creating it all of the time and she really just couldn't leave off as she described it.

It sounds very much like you just pointed out something, something that is a mission that you just somehow can't put to rest because again, that the volume.


I mean, that's just incredible.

And you know, you mentioned obviously something that often sets these artists apart is this ability to perform what they're doing, to produce what they're doing over a particularly extended period of time without rest.


And I suppose this is where you can see for Madge, if she, you know she was suffering physically, if she was feeling the difficulties of some of the ailments coming through, but yet somehow still manages to produce such quality.

And I whether that then is the connection with the spiritual side.


But then also this, this will need this real drive that something is motivating that she just can't put whatever she is doing down.

There's something driving her to need to want to also to do this as well, if that makes sense.

So it's almost again that dual role of or there's something else coming in and having that influence.


But there's also this inner purpose that, like you mentioned, this kind of spiritual enlightenment that makes her recognize that what she's also doing is important.

Yeah, I think you've summed it up beautifully.


And that's exactly what she was doing.

There was there was something bigger than her, a bigger purpose than her and other artists.

They they felt the same way and they were also creating very prolifically in quite weird situations sometimes.


There's an artist called Frieda Ghent for example, held her arm up in a very odd angle but for a long period of time.

But I think with with with mad, she definitely she just she just was driven.

I mean it was just something that she could not not do and and other art she and it never left her not possibly right at the very end of her life it did.


She became very ill then.

So she possibly gave up just a two or three years before she died.

But other artists, when their sort of gift left them, they were left bereft.

There's suddenly that that gift that they've been able to do for any amount of time had got had left them.


And so for Madge, though it stayed with her.

And she She had this companion for her entire creative life, which was about nearly 40 years.

Which is incredible, isn't it?

When you think about that span of time and again, the body of work produce.


But she was sort of saying, well I'm I'm going to reach a 50 foot, you know, Calico and she was pushing, pushing more and and doing bigger and older and still doing the small postcards as well.

But there was just something incredible that was was driving her.


But the legacy of that then left behind, I mean just.

I mean it is.

It's breathtaking when you think about it.

And I think this is the beauty of any with any artist in terms of what they produce.

It's something that endures and we have this with with Merge and that the legacy of this medium, Mr. Carr, that is there in all its, in all its variety and beauty.


They're very small pieces and then all the way through up until bigger, you know up to bigger pieces and then the volume there is this kind of range.

And again, that is just incredible that this is something that is being preserved and celebrated.


I suppose that's kind of the the question to kind of come to towards the end is thinking about how has that legacy of what she has produced being preserved and celebrated?

How is it coming through in contemporary art institutions and collections and and how is she continuing to be remembered really?


Yes, it's an interesting one because although there are many, many examples of her smaller works, there's very little of those large ones left that I know of that are being preserved.

There were sort of horror stories that back in the day, some were cut up into smaller pieces because they would possibly be easier to house or to sell maybe, I don't know.


But for example, there is one large one, thankfully in London in Newham Heritage Archive.

So that's wonderful.

It's called the Crucifixion of the Soul.

So when that comes out on display, which has done several times over the last few decades, it's always a wonder to see.


But yeah, so Maggie's work is really celebrated in numerous outsider art collections, but she's actually struggled to be accepted into contemporary art institutions.

So that's a kind of something that needs to be addressed, I think.


I mean, for example, the Tate doesn't own a single work by her except for a few postcards that just happened to be in the scrapbooks of Julian Trevellian's work work when he gave his archive to the Tate.

I do think though, it's just got to be a matter of time before this changes.


I I think there's getting to be more and more interest in her and so hopefully some of these bigger contemporary institutions will will decide to put her into their permanent collections.

Some of the works that are in public galleries were donated as part of a game, outsider art collections.


So for example, the Whitworth in Manchester has got some.

The Pompidou in Paris has also got some beautiful big, big work they've got.

And that's good, actually, because that gives them them the capability of showing the work, not just displayed in part of the outsider art, but also with their permanent contemporary collection.


So that would be a really good idea.

Her work is being celebrated and preserved in quite a few mediumistic collections, so that's good.

So people like the college psychic studies.

So really it's kind of looking towards that sort of contemporary.

I mean she's always been popular with audience, always she's been popular with artists.


So we know that she can inspire.

And I think due to the rise in other mediumistic artists like Hilmarth, Clint recently Georgiana Houghton, scholars and curators are definitely picking up on match.

And so I think now things will are going to change.


And the biggest indication of that is that her work this year was invited to be included in the Venice Biennale and that's going to open in just a few weeks time around the 20th of April.

And so that's amazing news that's going to raise her profile enormously.


And I do think that will be the start of a new chapter for Madge, or I hope so.

So does Madge feature alongside any other mediumistic artists in in exhibitions, etcetera?

I'm glad you asked that.

One of the one of the exhibitions that has been really important, I think for Madge is that she exhibited with another medium Mystic artist called Giuseppe Tora last year at the National Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona.


And that was just incredibly because it's such a prestigious museum and these two incredible women self-taught artists were there giving prominent space many of their works and I was lucky enough to visit it and it was just extraordinary.

It was a great achievement And so it was curated by a lady called Pila Bonnie Jovi and it was just incredible that she bought the two of these artists together and and just never told her that's her sort of home city.


But for Madge as a visiting artist, that was just wonderful to see.

So and it's again, it's an example of her work is starting to filter into a different arena, you know the contemporary art or the museum space.

So that's wonderful.


I do think so much of it is just about the right timing and things falling into place and things happening when they are, you know, ready to happen.

And I think a big part of that is public awareness and public demand.

And this is where, you know, people like yourself and and what you're doing in terms of raising the profile of someone and their art and what they were doing is so critically important.


Because, I mean, it's so easy for, you know, what it's like for anybody, don't you?

In terms of any type of artistic fear, whether it's writing, whether it's creating art, whatever it is.

There's so many people, there's so many great artists, there's so many great writers.


And it can be quite hard to kind of become known within that unless you become aware of someone and what they're doing and their and their body of work.

And again, This is why it's so critical to to have these types of conversations, so that if people aren't aware of what media Mr. Cart is, that's a starting point.


But then you can start looking at some of the the influence of the people who were part of that world and what they were doing and what their work says, what it speaks of, what it's highlighting, what it's showcasing.

And that's when you then start appreciating something on a on a completely different level, not only for the media, Mr. part, but also, like I mentioned right at the very beginning of our conversation, for the real artistry in some of it, the storytelling that you can see in the in the pictures.


And yeah, I think I think it's fantastic that this exhibition is coming up ahead in a few weeks.

Hopefully there will be more of that and I'm sure you'll be a big, big kind of part in advocating for her story to get out there, which is great.


Thank you.

I think, I think, yes, I'm.

I'm just going to enjoy formage what what will hopefully happen with some of these bigger institutions and circles, but equally for for everybody else too.


And I I'm going back to when these early spiritualist exhibitions were happening.

Art was always part of them.

And that's because art created a conversation.

And that's what I see happening now.

For Match, it's just a conversation that we can all have and and be inspired by.


And I think that's just a fantastic thing.

And I will make sure that all of your details and the websites obviously, which have information about that Match that you have created, etcetera, are part of the podcast description, notes and all of your details are readily available.


So that people can come and find out more about her and her body of work and see some of this.

And maybe that inspires them to want to go and see some of her work if they can.

Or to just discover other artists.

And you know, if that's the beginning point of their discussion around this, this kind of field, this body of of work, then that's fantastic.


So I will make sure to do that because I think it would be well worth anybody's time to take a look.

It's it's honestly beautiful.

It's they're they're stunning pieces, but it's also a really fascinating story.

She's, you know, an incredible woman, I think.

I agree and this thank you very much.


Honestly, it's been such a pleasure to talk to you today.

It's been such a joy to find out more about marriage.

So thank you for coming and not only sharing your knowledge, but sharing your clear passion for her as an artist and what she was doing.

It's been it's been so much appreciated.


Thank you so much.

Oh, I've really enjoyed it.

Thank you.

And I will say goodbye to everybody listening.

Bye everybody.

Vivienne Roberts Profile Photo

Vivienne Roberts


Vivienne Roberts is the curator and archivist at The College of Psychic Studies in London, where she cares for their large collection of spirit inspired art, photographs and artefacts from 1850 to the present day. This unusual archive, along with the College’s specialist esoteric library, has offered Vivienne the opportunity to immerse herself in a wealth of primary material and has been instrumental in helping her curate a series of large exhibitions, including: Encounters with the Spirit World (2016), Art & Spirit: Visions of Wonder (2019), Strange Things Among Us (2021) and Creative Spirits (2022). Vivienne’s art specialism is the history of mediumistic art with particular attention to its women practitioners like Madge Gill. She has established the websites mediumisticart.com, georgianahoughton.com and madgegill.com and has published numerous articles and exhibition catalogue contributions. Vivienne is a member of the Visionary Women Research Group and the British Art Network.