Gill, Madge

Madge Gill was born out of wedlock. Her mother kept her hidden away in a home and later sent her to Canada to work on a farm. In 1903 she returned to London and worked there as a nurse at Whipps Cross Hospital, Leytonstone. Three sons were born of her unhappy marriage to her nephew. In 1919, the daughter she had so longed for was stillborn, and Madge Gill herself lost one eye through illness. It was in this year that she started to draw.

Her aunt Kate introduced her to Spiritualism and mediumistic practices. Gill always worked in a trance, possessed by the spirit Myrninerest. Under the influence of this power, she created large drawings in Indian ink on long rolls (some are 11 metres long), started to knit, weave and embroider and composed spiritually inspired music. Her drawings are filled with female figures held in thick, restless webs of lines that lend them a dizzying perspective.

Gill always drew in half darkened rooms, and often worked feverishly through the whole night. She is even said to have drawn with her eyes closed. She created her largest works on rolls of cotton that she partially unrolled and then rolled up again as she went along. She never looked at the entire work.

It was on 3 March 1920, that Madge Gill was first ‘possessed’ by Myrninerest, her spirit-guide. Madge was now thirty-eight, and her contact with this phantom figure would be maintained without interruption throughout the rest of her life.
It was at the age of fifty, that Madge participated for the first time in an annual exhibition of art by East End amateurs, mounted by the Whitechapel Gallery. She showed Reincarnation, a calico roll densely worked in coloured inks, which attracted national press coverage.
From the 1930s on, Madge Gill enjoyed a reputation as a medium in her neighbourhood. She organized séances at her home, drawing up horoscopes and offering prophecies. What continued unabated was her artistic production. Her principal medium became ink-drawing, executed on postcards, sheets of paper or card, and long rolls of untreated calico cloth. Her drawings sometimes are covering immense rolls of calico, which she finished incrementally, earlier parts of the drawing becoming hidden as the fabric was rolled to reveal a new blank surface.
She continued to exhibit annually at the Whitechapel till 1947.
(Solo-) exhibitions: 2010-11, Frankfurt, Weltenwandler / World Transformers.
References: Weinhart, Martina en Hollein, Max; Weltenwandler / World Transformers. Die Kunst der Outsider, Frankfurt (Schirn Halle) 2010. In 1968, a retrospective was held at the Grosvenor Gallery in the West End.
Outsider Art Sourcebook, 2009, p. 79. info: www.madgegill.com

Madge Gill drawing

Madge (Maude Ethel Eades) Gill
1882 East End of London, England - 1961 England