Launching the Nunnery gallery programme, Madge Gill’s first major retrospective will be the focus for three ten-week exhibitions running until early 2013. The project is conceived and funded by Bow Arts with the support of The London Borough of Newham. With accompanying installation “Line Drawing” by Sarah Carne.
Gill’s work has never been shown before in this way. She is presented not only as a defining member of the “Outsider art” movement (which denoted Gill’s status as a non-professional) but also as an important 20th Century artist whose work holds a modern audience captivated and intrigued. This exhibition uncovers many patterns in her work which indicate her fragile mental state following a traumatic childhood (growing up an orphan, being sent to Canada as a child worker before returning to East London and marrying her cousin). Gill started to produce drawings and embroidery on paper and calico, but her adulthood was beset by the grief which it is believed inspired her work. After the death of her son from a bout Spanish ‘flu which lost her the sight in one eye, a stillborn daughter and finally the death of her husband, Gill was prolific in her production of sketches and drawings right up until the late 1950s. She died in East Ham in 1961.
The majority of Gill’s work is held in an archive by the London Borough of Newham, who have generously supported this exhibition. Individual works have been occasionally exhibited across the world in exhibitions devoted to Outsider Art, but this is the first time a comprehensive retrospective, showing many unseen works, has been put together. Artist, writer and curator Deanna Petherbridge, and local historian/Whitechapel Gallery archivist Gary Haines have contributed to the research for this exhibition and will host talks and walks for those interested in finding out more about this remarkable icon of East London.