Category Index
Books About Big Art
  • A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932
    A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932
    by John Richardson
  • Sarah Lucas: A Catalog Raisonné
    Sarah Lucas: A Catalog Raisonné
    by Yilmaz Dziewior, Sarah Lucas
  • Grayson Perry
    Grayson Perry
    by Jacky Klein
  • Hendrik Kerstens (English and Dutch Edition)
    Hendrik Kerstens (English and Dutch Edition)
    by Pim Milo, Kathy Ryan
  • David Hockney: A Bigger Picture
    David Hockney: A Bigger Picture
    by Marco Livingstone, Margaret Drabble, Tim Barringer, Xavier Salomon, Stuart Comer, Martin Gayford
  • Vernon Ah Kee: Born in this Skin
    Vernon Ah Kee: Born in this Skin
    by Robert Leonard, Anthony Gardner, Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Blair French, Glenn Barkley
  • Yayoi Kusama
    Yayoi Kusama
    by Midori Yamamura, Jo Applin, Yayoi Kusama
  • Henry Moore: From the Inside Out; Plasters, Carvings, Drawings
    Henry Moore: From the Inside Out; Plasters, Carvings, Drawings
    Prestel Publishing
  • Wall and Piece
    Wall and Piece
    by Banksy
  • Mark Rothko
    Mark Rothko
    by Mr. Jeffrey Weiss
  • Louise Bourgeois
    Louise Bourgeois
    by Robert Storr, Paulo Herkenhoff
  • Damien Hirst
    Damien Hirst
    by Ann Gallagher
Join the Big Picture

A blog that aims to spark thoughts and inspire by seeking out and sharing works of art

Historically, artists have always worked big, and nowadays those boundaries are being pushed to the limits.

Large-scale art, whether in the form of photos from the Hubble space telescope, sharks floating in tanks of formaldehyde, rooms full of dots, concrete sculptures cast from Victorian buildings or hand knitted blankets wrapped around trees, large-scale art is all around us. Join the Big Picture aims to spark thoughts and inspire by seeking out and sharing these works.

All content by Karla Thompson, an ex-pat Aussie living in East London. When not working on Join the Big Picture she is part of the backbone to the Leonhard Pfeifer brand.

Read an interview about Join the Big Picture here.


Karla Thompson
Creative Partner




Detail of Yarn Bombing UK

Entries in Outsider Art (2)


Madge Gill - A major retrospective

Madge Gill sounds like one lady I would have liked to have '5 o'clock tea' with - watching, talking and listening to her while she ‘doodled’ on her 10m long immense calico work. Sitting in her front room in East London, a snug setting that was also her studio, we could have discussed many of life’s questions and it would appear she could have answered many of them - by speaking to those who had crossed over into the spirit world.

Her exciting new retrospective features over 100 of her artworks and is the first of its kind. The focal point of the exhibition is the 10 metre long work on calico, The Crucifixion of the Soul, and is perhaps Gill’s most important work.

Madge Gill: Medium & Visionary is currently on at Orleans House Gallery, Riverside, Twickenham, Until 26 January 2014.


Madge Gill  'Untitled'  c.1940
Ink on card  25.5 x 31.5 cm   
Henry Boxer Gallery

From the Curator, Mark De Novellis:

Madge Gill: Medium & Visionary

With no training and no aspirations to fame, Madge Gill produced thousands of ink drawings during her lifetime. Her work remains an enigma: is it true she was inspired by an ethereal spirit guide? Was she genuinely in touch with 'the beyond', or was art-making a form of self therapy?

Orleans House Gallery invites you to delve into the world of Madge Gill (1882 - 1961) in this major retrospective exhibition supported by the Wellcome Trust. Featuring over 100 original artworks, and contextual photographs and documents, this exhibition is the first of its kind. Madge Gill was championed and collected by Jean Dubuffet, who coined the term ‘art brut’ (raw art), the precursor to the term ‘Outsider Art’. Gill is considered the most important, influential and recognised British ‘outsider artist.’ This project explores Gill’s work, history and psychic / mediumistic context in-depth, in order to question the use of such terms, whilst celebrating the benefits of creativity for wellbeing.

Working mainly on paper, card and textiles, Gill used pen to create maze-like surfaces with a glittering, almost hallucinatory quality that often reveal a female face. Ranging from postcard size to over 10 metres long, her work immerses the eye in a dark world of mystery, beauty and obsession. Her work has been included in previous Orleans House Gallery Outsider and Visionary art exhibitions, the Tate Gallery, and more recently at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, Museum of Everything and Nunnery Gallery.

The focal point of the exhibition is The Crucifixion of the Soul, perhaps Gill’s most important work. Over ten metres long, this immense calico is inscribed with Gill’s finely wrought doodle-like drawings and is testament to Gill’s commitment to creativity.

The project has been generously funded by a People Award from the Wellcome Trust. Curators have worked with psychologists, medical historians, biographers, art historians and art psychotherapists to bring different approaches to Gill together within the exhibition and accompanying catalogue. Present day artists from the Art & Soul group, who celebrate mental and emotional wellbeing through the arts, are also represented in the project.

Bringing together little-seen loans from the Newham Archive; the College of Psychic Studies in South Kensington; the Henry Boxer Gallery and other archival material and artworks from private collections, this exhibition is a must-see for all those interested in art, psychology, spiritualism, social history or all of the above.

Orleans House Gallery,
Riverside, Twickenham, TW1 3DJ

Free admission


Madge Gill – Outsider, Artist


The term ‘Outsider Art’ was first coined in 1972 as a term for art that was created outside the boundaries of official culture; in particular art made by those who were inmates in insane-asylums and children.

I like the idea that in Britain in the 70’s any art that proved both popular and created outside the establishment needed to be classified as 'made by a crazy person’. I think that all artists are a little ‘crazy’. Sometimes the ‘crazy’ comes out in the way they dress, in their compulsive obsessive nature to repeat patterns and processes over the course of their life, to cut their own ears off, or just in the way they express themselves.

You have to be a little bit ‘crazy’ to be an Artist, and that is what makes this select group of individuals so wonderful. I’m not sure if I like the term ‘Outsider’ – it feels quietly, snidely aggressive but it is a classification that intrigues me.

Madge Gill’s work is clearly obsessive; with compulsive mark making. Her artistic output was as diverse as it was prolific, creating ink drawings and paintings on cardboard, calico, knitting, tapestry, embroidery, rug-making, dresses and tablecloths. All from her living room in East London in the early 1900’s.

Some of the artworks were postcard sized, others huge. It was the incredible roll of paper on display at the Nunnery Gallery at Bow Arts that captivated my attention. The work features crowds of beautifully adorned females, scratched and etched into the thick roll of paper in both red and black ink. The intensity of the mark making at the beginning of the roll suggests a real passion and desire to put the images onto paper. As the paper expands, the enthusiasm for the work seems to deteriorate; Gill is said to have been inspired by a spiritual being that helped and guided her with her work. This intensity seems apparent in the beginning of the piece, and possibly a waiting period before another ‘visit’ to help fuel her inspiration again.

Crazy? Perhaps. Passionate and talented – definitely.

Madge Gill’s work was first shown at the East End Academy exhibition - Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1938 - an annual event since 1932. Anyone could show their work, the only proviso being that the artist must live or work east of the Aldgate Pump and no more than 10 miles away.

Gill felt uncomfortable selling her work, and there is an argument there to say she never intended her work to be seen by the public at all.

The Nunnery presented the first major retrospective of ‘Outsider’ artist Madge Gill, and the final installment the exhibition continues until January 31, 2013.