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London Fortean Society presents:

The Haunted Gallery: Untold Stories of Art & Magic

25th March 2023 · 11:00am - 5:00pm

Doors open: 10:30am

In person

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 The Haunted Gallery: Untold Stories of Art & Magic

Magic is a dark vein running through the history and practice of art. Join us for a selection of talks and discussion on artists and magic in art.

Victoria Jenkins: Visions of the Occult – An Untold Story of Art & Magic

Archivist Victoria Jenkins presents her major survey of the occult collection of artworks, letters, objects and ephemera in the Tate Archive. This talk offers in-depth exploration of the occult and its relationship to art and culture including witchcraft, alchemy, secret societies, folklore and pagan rituals, demonology, spells and magic, para-sciences, astrology and tarot.

She reveals some of the 150+ unseen esoteric and mystical pieces, never-before-seen by the public and brings a new understanding to the artists in the Tate collection and the history and practice of the occult. The first major survey of the occult collection of artworks, letters, objects and ephemera in the Tate Archive.

Her lavishly illustrated magical volume, Visions of the Occult: An Untold Story of Art & Magic (Tate Publishing 2022), explores the hidden artworks and ephemera left behind by artists for the first-time idea and will shed new light on our understanding of the art historical canon. Expect to find the unexpected with artists such as Ithell Colquhoun, John Nash, Barbara Hepworth, David Mayor, Max Armfield, Cecil Collins, Jill and Bruce Lacey, Francis Bacon, Alan Davie, Joe Tilson, Henry Moore, William Blake, Leonora Carrington and Hamish Fulton. For the first time, the clandestine, magical works of the Tate archive are revealed with archivist Victoria Jenkins acting as the depository of its secrets.

Vivienne Roberts: Lost Artists at The College of Psychic Studies

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. She has established the websites, and and her independent research has led to the rediscovery of several spirit inspired artists who have fallen into obscurity such as Alice Pery and Alice Essington Nelson.

Vivienne is a member of the Visionary Women Research Group and the British Art Network.

Vivienne Roberts: Madge Gill and Myrninerest

Madge Gill (1882-1961) was one of Britain’s most creative and visionary self-taught artists. An outstanding exponent of mediumistic art and one of the foremost British Outsider artists. She was born in the East End of London, where she spent the greater part of her life. On 3 March 1920, Madge was first ‘possessed’ by Myrninerest, her spirit-guide. Her contact with this phantom figure would be maintained without interruption throughout the rest of her life.

Roger Cardinal, who coined the term Outsider Art in 1972, writes in his latest biography ‘The Life of Madge Gill’: Gill’s frenetic improvizations have an almost hallucinatory quality, each surface being filled with checkerboard patterns that suggest giddy, quasi-architectural spaces. Afloat upon these swirling proliferations are the pale faces of discarnate and nameless women, sketched perfunctorily, albeit with an apparent concern for beauty, and with startled expressions.

Working under the control of Myrninerest, Madge’s art remains an enigma. Vivienne Roberts discusses Gill’s life, work and magical working.

Rachael House: Genderqueer Deities

Rachael House describes the creation of her genderqueer deities and how they ended up on walls across Britain. They are wall hanging apotropaic sculptures, some are embellished with beads woven from queer newspapers, bottle tops and stamped ceramic charms. All the stamps used to decorate the deities are handmade, and highly charged with meaning. They include goddess symbols, trans and feminist symbols and stamps of the objects used to protect the maker from harm in witches bottles- pins, sharp things, hair, salt and herbs.

Rachael House’s work is informed by her research into witch bottles, often made from Bellarmine jugs in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Rather than warding against witches spells, her genderqueer deities protect us from gender conformity and those who would attack the rights of women, womxn and all of those with less power than the ruling elites.

Rachael House is a UK artist who makes events, objects, performance, drawings and zines. Events have been curtailed over the past years, and drawing has taken centre stage, with her first book, Resistance Sustenance Protection, published in May 2021. Rachael House’s work focuses on feminist and queer politics and resistant histories/herstories, aiming to reach as many like-minded people as possible, inside and outside of the art world. She uses humor, personal engagement and events to draw in those who may not be like-minded too – she recruits.

Phil Baker: Austin Osman Spare – The Life and Legend of London’s Lost Artist

A controversial enfant terrible of the Edwardian art world, the young Austin Osman Spare was hailed as a genius and a new Aubrey Beardsley, while George Bernard Shaw reportedly said “Spare’s medicine is too strong for the average man.”

But Spare was never made for worldly success, and he went underground, falling out of the gallery system to live in poverty and obscurity south of the river. Absorbed in occultism and sorcery, voyaging into inner dimensions and surrounding himself with cats and familiar spirits, he continued to produce extraordinary art while developing a magical philosophy of pleasure, obsession, and the subjective nature of reality.

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