Art Exhibition Review – Madge Gill: Medium and Visionary – Orleans House Gallery

To mark today’s World Mental Health Day, which focuses this year on older adults, we’re posting a review of last night’s opening of Madge Gill: Medium and Visionary at Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham.

Madge Gill Invitation Illustration Henry-Boxer-Gallery

This exhibition brings together some 100 artworks together with supporting documents and photographs providing the most comprehensive overview of Gill’s work to date. Further information is supplied in an excellent catalogue compiled and edited by Mark de Novellis, who has curated this fascinating show alongside Henry Boxer, Roger Cardinal and Vivienne Roberts, all of whom have contributed to the publication.

From 1919 Gill produced works in various media, including knitting, embroidery, rug-making, and drawing in inks – this last proving her richest vein and being the main focus for the exhibition. Her output was achieved over a forty year period, with the most prolific phase taking place in the 1950s.

It is fitting to start with Madge Gill’s own words: “It was in 1919 when I first started my work. I then had an inspiration to take up my pen and do all kinds of works of an artistic type. I felt that I had an artistic faculty seeking expression. It took various forms. First of all, knitting – even without any pattern. Then came a flow of all kinds of inspirational writing, mostly Biblical.

madge gill floral abstract_resizeThen I felt impelled to execute drawings on a large scale on calico. I simply couldn’t leave it and I did on average 20 pictures a week, all in colour. All the time I was in quite a normal state of mind and there was no suggestion of a ‘spirit’ standing beside me. I simply felt inspired. Sometimes I would be dissatisfied with the work and tear it up or burn it. But I felt I was definitely guided by an unseen force, though I could not say what its actual nature was. “  Extract from an interview in Prediction Magazine, 1937.

Madge Gill 151 Black ink on board Abstract circle 20 24 inchesFor Outsider artists more often than not the creative process is an internal exploration. Gill later spoke of hearing voices throughout her life and of the spirit which propelled her creative urges, known as Myrninerest. Most of her artwork is unsigned but where it is marked, credit is given solely to her spirit guide. She refused to sell her pieces on the basis that the work didn’t belong to her but to Myrninerest. There is evidence that she was known as a psychic and medium, certainly a visionary in some respects. It has also been suggested that she may have been schizophrenic but no diagnosis was made. She did have a spell in the Lady Chichester Hospital for Women and Children in Hove, an establishment focused on the ‘borderland’ between wellness and ill health, more specifically mental health. Certainly her life, both the traumatic early years and the periods surrounding the stillbirth of her daughter and the death of one of her sons at the age of 8 would suggest that she suffered from depression. Her family as an adult however seemed to accept her as she was, this despite a strained relationship with her husband. In later life her sons supported her and embraced their mother’s strange and often compulsive behaviour, enabling her to continue to produce work until she died in her seventies. By that time she had amassed a couple of thousand artworks, with over 1200 bequeathed by her son Laurie to their local East Ham County Borough Council, now looked after by the London Borough of Newham. Many of these works have been included in this exhibition.

Madge Gill selfportraitMadge Gill was born in 1882 and died in 1961. A short biography, written by Roger Cardinal is available on a website dedicated to her work and life. Cardinal, who is currently working on a full biography, is an acknowledged expert on Gill and more generally on Outsider art, an expression he coined in 1972 when his seminal book of the same name was first published covering what had previously been described as ‘Art Brut’. As Cardinal writes in a comprehensive essay in the exhibition catalogue’s introduction: “Creative inspiration can travel down unsuspected paths and sometimes visits individuals who know nothing of art history and who have little idea of the world of high art frequented by intellectuals, critics , connoisseurs, teachers and cultured enthusiasts. Such individuals need no training and are often satisfied with a minimum of acclaim, for their commitment to personal expression thrives independently of the interest or approval of others. Outsider artists, as they have come to be called, enjoy their idiosyncratic approach to creation and operate with sublime self-assurance, ignoring the beaten track of the art class and the public gallery. Madge Gill was one such exponent of self-justifying and unmonitored art-making, and today long after her death, her reputation as an outstanding example of creative individualism continues to grow. This long overdue retrospective honours her as a rare exemplar of self-reliant artistry.”

Madge Gill Three draped figures in a chequered settingSpeaking at the exhibition opening Cardinal suggested that the presence of a spiritual guide in Gill’s life might have provided the permission she needed to give herself to dedicate most of her time to her art: “She was minded to do it,” he said. He also points out that “Gill’s craftsmanship is characterised by dogged perseverance.” Later on she worked on rolls on canvas that she had no hope of viewing in full in the small room that she worked in at home. At this stage she agreed to exhibit her work publicly perhaps with the sole aim of seeing these large pieces in their entirety. One of these, a monumental pen and ink work on calico entitled The Crucifixion of The Soul, measures 11 metres and is displayed in the Orleans House show.

Madge Gill artwork untitledWhat shines through in this inspiring, extensive yet intimate exhibition, is Gill’s unstinting dedication to making her mark, her obsessive attention to detail and her almost unerring need to cover every centimetre of the surface. A proliferation of faces, watchful eyes, geometric shapes and intense surface decoration permeates almost all the works – a veritable outpouring of creativity. There is a good cross section of monochrome works interspersed with many of her sensitively coloured pieces, displays of her postcards, found in numerous boxes under her bed following her death. The attic and virtually other rooms held more caches.

The arts team at Richmond Upon Thames Borough and the co-curators have created an extraordinary testament to this extraordinary woman. Thanks to a grant from the Wellcome Trust, the Orleans House Gallery exhibition and accompanying catalogue has also enabled new multi-disciplinary research into Madge Gill’s creativity via a team which includes Dr Paul Camic, Professor of Psychology and Public Health and mental health historian Dr Rob Ellis.

MadgeGill abstract blue yellowAs Dr Camic writes: “Wellbeing is not a fixed place that, once we arrive, remains constant. Our wellbeing is something that fluctuates depending on the challenges we face and the resources we can muster. Madge Gill faced an enormous number of challenges in her life. Her art-making can be seen as a kind of comeback to these challenges and appreciated as a creative and life-affirming response to external events and the internal emotional upheaval which they caused. While the meaning and purpose of her art-making was multi-determined and multifaceted, there are two fundamental ways in which it can be psychologically understood; how it helped to form an important element of her resilience and how it was used as a resource that contributed to her fluctuating sense of wellbeing.”

This brings us neatly to another constructive spin off afforded by the Madge Gill retrospective: Richmond Borough’s Art & Soul Project.  Members of this already well-established group have been working on their own pieces, informed and inspired by Gill’s artwork. A section of the space at Orleans House Gallery displays some of their exciting new work. This member led organisation aims to provide a positive framework in which people with mental health issues can express themselves, develop new skills and make a positive contribution using active participation and the group experience to give many a needed boost in self-confidence and self worth during difficult periods in their lives. One might suggest that first and foremost though participation in the project  offers a chance for self-expression and creativity, a compelling sometimes healing life force which Gill’s outstanding and extensive oeuvre amply illustrates.

Review © Emma Boden, Armadillo Central

Text extracts: Madge Gill Medium & Visionary, published by Orleans House Gallery, ISBN 1-902643-17-8

Pictures courtesy of / © : London Borough of Newham Heritage and Archives; Musée de l’Art Brut, Lausanne; Henry Boxer Gallery; De Novellis Collection.

Madge Gill The SpiritualistMadge Gill: Medium & Visionary runs until the 26th January 2014 at Orleans House Gallery, Riverside, Twickenham, TW1 3DJ. Admission is free. Tuesday to Saturday 1pm to 4.30pm; Sunday and Bank Holidays 2pm to 4.30pm.

Find out more about:

Madge Gill

The Art & Soul Project

Madge Gill artwork b

Where’s Strutter? @ The Fine Line Project, Southampton Cellar

WheresStrutterA2310WwmEvery so often you come across a band that’s so great live that you’re left utterly speechless – such is Where’s Strutter? It’s almost three months since they performed for The Fine Line Project at The Cellar in Southampton and we’re still in recovery, still searching for the right words to describe the sheer utter awesomness of their performance.WheresStrutter2350Wwm

The band travelled from Manchester on the day, had a puncture on the way, thus missing their studio session with multi-media magazine St Pauls Lifestyle (which will come later – meanwhile check out previous sessions on their LISTED ARTIST page) yet arrived perfectly chilled and went on to deliver with complete ease the most blistering, hottest set ever. The stage and the venue vanished altogether into the music and the moment.WheresStrutter2352Wwm

From Bones which starts off with a laid back ballady blues vibe, building into an enveloping anthem, peppered by perfect drumming, the signature sound of echoing guitars and utterly confident pitch perfect vocals, and onto other brilliant tracks from their current CD, Where’s Strutter? sure know how to hold their audience’s attention.WheresStrutter2355Wwm

Their music seamlessly crosses genres from hard edged rock into clever little strands of pop, atmospheric passages which transport you altogether elsewhere (was that bit of morse code? check the EP…) and stunning blues, blending unusual sounds into beautiful melodies that are at once new and yet strangely familiar. These guys have it just right – catchy guitar riffs, anthemic choruses, perfect timing, neat lyrics and a fantastic stage presence. If the sign of great artists is the apparent ease with which they demonstrate their talent, Where’s Strutter? have it in arena-loads.WheresStrutter2356Wwm

We’ve been enjoying their EP, Apollo’s Bloom, ever since we got our hands on a copy at the gig. Here’s the track listing:

Bones
Binded By The Sun
Questions (check out the video here)
Back To The End
See You AroundWheresStrutter2359Wwm

Get yourself a copy of this little gem while it’s still available – a bargain at £3.99 – and what’s more get down to their next gig and catch them live in a smaller venue before they become massive. In a few days time they’ll be on stage with another epic band, fronted by the great Pete Doherty. Where’s Strutter? are supporting Babyshambles at Manchester Academy on 7th September – so wish we were in town for that one!WheresStrutter2360WwmWheresStrutter2347WwmWheresStrutter2346Wwm

Where’s Strutter? features Patrick Neville, Lee Broadbent, Dan Green and Josh Leach. With the biggest thanks for their appearance at The Fine Line Project’s Rethink Benefit. Thanks also to Steve Maynard for all the great photos, St Pauls Lifestyle for their amazing ongoing support – take a look at our LISTED ARTIST pages on their site – and The Cellar Southampton, such a great venue.

Charlotte Campbell @ The Fine Line Project, Southampton Cellar

Charlotte Campbell delivered a finely tuned and utterly engaging set for our Rethink Mental Illness Benefit last month. Catchy songs, finely played, interspersed with a perfectly pitched dialogue – the entire audience was enchanted.

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Since the gig we’ve been enjoying her album Blue Eyed Soul – thoughtful and thought-provoking lyrics, fresh melodies, crystalline voice with a honeyed warmth.CharlotteCampbellA2272SteveMaynardTFLP613b

Along with her signature tracks Blue Eyes, Green Eyes, Quiet Nights and Feathers and Wax (more of which below), check Jump, Charlotte’s reflections on the music industry, and On the Southbank dedicated to the famous London riverside where you may yet catch her busking, before she becomes too famous.

CharlotteCampbellA2252SteveMaynardTFLP613wmWe also love Feathers & Wax, with thanks to Charlotte for sharing the lyrics – here’s a little snippet:

We look around for something inviting
For unholy ground, safe from the lightening that singed our wings.
Why are we here, raising our voices?
It seems so unclear, but we all made our choices to sing.
And that’s the main thing.

I’ve found that the meaning of life
Is to do what you love and try to survive  
And hope that you don’t fall apart
When you’re finally opening your heart.
And find that the clothes on your back
Are nothing but feathers and wax.CharlotteCampbellA2260SteveMaynardTFLP613wm

Here’s a link to the full track on Charlotte’s site:

Read some more about this bright young artiste and listen to a couple of completely different tracks on St Pauls Lifestyle’s brilliant multi-media site. Most of all catch her next gigs – Charlotte’s singing in Llanbedrog, Aylesbury and Cambridge so far in August.

CharlotteCampbellA2274SteveMaynardTFLP613wmcfBig thanks again to Charlotte, Steve Maynard for some more great photographs, the St Pauls Lifestyle team and The Cellar Southampton for hosting the event.

Mog Stanley @ The Fine Line Project, Southampton Cellar

First up and first on stage for our Rethink benefit last month, one man band, blues guitarist and singer Mog Stanley.

MogStanleySC2207SteveMaynardWmW

Mog drove a heroic number of miles to join us, stopping off on the way to record one of his feature tracks ‘Hands’ at St Pauls Lifestyle’s studio.

We loved Mog’s signature twangy guitar blues sounds, from laid back through to foot stomping, all to the accompaniment of his unique percussion ensemble – a whole box of self-assembled tricks, complete with shaking shoes.

MogStanley2205SteveMaynardWmWMogStanley2218SteveMayWmWMogStanley2238SteveMaynardWmW

Since the Fine Line Project gig Mog’s been working on some new material and new sounds, including this melodic ballad Moving On:

Mog Stanley Moving On

Keep an eye on his site for more new tracks and news of his forthcoming album.

Big thanks to Steve Maynard who took all The Fine Line Project photos at The Cellar, Southampton including those shown here.

Read more about Mog Stanley and his St Pauls Lifestyle session on their dedicated Fine Line Project pages.

Big thanks again to Mog, the whole team at St Pauls Lifestyle and The Cellar Southampton for hosting the event.

Yet Another Grand Night for The Fine Line Project

We’ve had some amazing donations in since the Southampton Cellar gig and third time lucky (with a lot of hard work in between!) we’ve managed to raise another grand total of £1000 for charity. This one’s for Rethink Mental Illness whose front line services and ceaseless campaigning benefit those with mental health issues and their families and carers all over the UK.

We have a lot of people to thank!

TheFineLineProjectRethinkJune2013First up our fantastic line up of artists who together created an evening of entertainment which will go down in history, as anyone who was there will confirm.

Soul star and outstanding singer, performer and songwriter Noah Francis showcased his new album in the headline slot with an amazingly talented band, Pandit Dinesh, John Robertson, Paddy Milner, Peter Hope-Evans and Nihan Redford; Where’s Strutter?‘s Patrick Neville, Lee Broadbent, Dan Green and Josh Leach were utterly awesome and delivered powerful songs and the kind of blistering set which is bound to hurtle them into the biggest musical arenas before long; local singer songwriter Charlotte Campbell charmed everyone with her crystal voice, intelligent songs and engaging manner; and in the opening slot Mog Stanley warmed up the show with his unique blend of blues powered by dynamic guitar playing and one-man band percussion.

Next up big thanks to our fantastic venue The Cellar in Southampton and their team including manager Joe who also DJ’d later on, soundman Pete, Glynn on lights and a great security guy, whose name is to follow.

Huge thanks to Rethink’s Fiona Magor for taking the trip with us down South and Maria in the press office for sterling support.

We were incredibly lucky to have the services of local Prince’s Trust supported photographer Steve Maynard on the night and will be publishing more of his pictures over the coming days.

Thanks to our own always brilliant team of volunteers and faithful supporters including Patrick, Craig, Grace, James and Sue as well as Liam, Angelica, Alex, Stephanie, Sarah and Adam behind the scenes and long term supporters Gerry, Darren and Joe not forgetting the Armadillo Central team.

Special thanks to the equally brilliant team at St Pauls Lifestyle who worked alongside us on the build up as well as on the day and continue to support The Fine Line Project on their site, where we now have LISTED ARTIST status: Rose, Dominique, Angus, Ben, Jessie, Georgia and Jacques. Check their site for special sessions filmed and recorded just before the gig featuring 3 tracks by Noah Francis and his band and also Mog Stanley. To follow, further recordings with Where’s Strutter? and Charlotte Campbell, all in the name of The Fine Line Project and supporting further awareness for mental health charities.

More thanks to Noah Francis’ team including Poorang, Spider and Paddy and Noah himself for generously donating to the funds raised as well as performing for us.

We’re also incredibly grateful for the support of online music blog Ralph’s Life, local press The Daily Echo and Hampshire Chronicle/7 Days, Solent Mind and The Studio Romsey in particular for amazing last minute help with flyer printing. Many local businesses and organisations, too numerous to mention also helped with publicity, Twitter support, poster display and flyers – we hope to get to know you better on the next one. Southampton is one big friendly city and the sun shone all day! We hope to be back before long…

Check back soon for more photos and some reviews and thank you for your support!

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CharlotteCampbellFineLineProject613a

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Hampshire Chronicle 7 Days Review

Rethink Benefit 8th June Southampton

TheFineLineProject6June2013wBUY TICKETS FROM THE CELLAR SITE OR £10 ON THE DOOR.

THANKS FOR SPREADING THE WORD – SEE YOU THERE FOR AN EPIC NIGHT OF AWESOME MUSIC

WITH NOAH FRANCIS, WHERE’S STRUTTER?, CHARLOTTE CAMPBELL, MOG STANLEY AND ST PAULS LIFESTYLE IN AID OF RETHINK MENTAL ILLNESS.

See previous posts for more details.

June 8th Rethink Benefit at The Cellar Southampton: Press Release

TheFineLineProject6June2013wPress Information:

The Fine Line Project’s Latest Music for Mental Health Benefit – an evening of outstanding sounds in aid of Rethink featuring Noah Francis, Where’s Strutter?, Charlotte Campbell and Mog Stanley

Following a couple of sell out gigs at The Troubadour Club in London, The Fine Line Project are heading South with their music for mental health project and have organised a gig at The Cellar in Southampton in association with cult music site St Paul’s Lifestyle.

The gig which takes place on Saturday 8th June features acclaimed Welsh soul singer Noah Francis, hugely popular Mancunian band Where’s Strutter?, talented up-coming local chanteuse Charlotte Campbell and one-man bluesband Mog Stanley.

Tickets are selling at £8 in advance and £10 on the door. All proceeds from ticket sales and donations will go to Rethink Mental Illness.

The Fine Line Project is a creative arts initiative supporting awareness and fundraising for mental health charities. The project focuses on great artists and great sounds, all for a great cause. Mental illness affects an astounding one in four with many affected more seriously by the stigma linked to being diagnosed than the actual condition.

Rethink directly supports almost 60,000 people every year across England to get through crises, to live independently and to realise they are not alone. The charity’s website and helplines give information and advice to 500,000 more and changes policy and attitudes for millions. Rethink’s services, support groups, and members cover every county in England, giving them local insight and helping to spread innovations nationally. All their work is governed by people who have lived through mental illness.

Contact The Fine Line Project for further info.

http://www.rethink.org/

http://www.stpaulslifestyle.com/

http://www.southamptoncellar.com/

BUY TICKETS HERE

June 8th The Cellar Southampton Fine Line Project for Rethink

Here’s the line up in its full glory – another great flyer from Patrick – and a supremely brilliant gig, coming up soon! How can you resist? Get buying tickets now. They’re only £8 up front and every penny is going to a great cause: Rethink Mental Illness.

Thanks for spreading the word!

FEATURING:

Noah Francis, Where’s Strutter?, Charlotte Campbell, Mog Stanley & The Cellar’s resident DJ.

With thanks to The Cellar Southampton and St Paul’s Lifestyle for their support. Here’s the TICKET LINK – ADVANCE TICKETS

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Fine Line Project June 8th: Charlotte Campbell / Mog Stanley

Completing our line up for the Rethink Benefit at The Cellar Southampton on June 8th we have 2 more artists.

Upcoming local talent, Charlotte Campbell, one of the area’s biggest rising stars, is a singer songwriter with a voice exuding warmth and crystal clarity, beautiful melodies and a quirky folk/pop vibe which is already short-circuiting her to success. Charlotte is a graduate of the BRIT school and current scholarship student at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, having won her place through Mayor of London’s Gigs Live competition (Summer 2012). She has just released her new album Blue Eyed Soul featuring this catchy original tune – Quiet Nights:

We’re looking forward to opening the show with the powerhouse that is Mog Stanley’s one-man band, featuring some exceptionally brilliant blues guitar sounds along with his custom designed ‘percussion toe tapping shoe box thingy’. Mog will be releasing new recordings this Summer. We’re also hoping he’ll have a clutch of his recent EPs to bring to the gig including this awesome little track, Tricky Mouth Blues:

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The 8th also features Noah Francis in the headline slot and Where’s Strutter?