Madge Gill: The Clouds Will Burst the Sun Will Shine Again Exhibition at the MAC Birmingham

Sat 2 Sept – Sun 26 Nov 2023

Curated by Sophie Dutton this exhibition is a journey through the beautiful work of celebrated, self-taught artist Madge Gill (1882-1961). Gill’s prolific work was born from a difficult life and the discovery of enduring inspiration from art, spirituality and nature. Drawings, paintings, embroidery and archival material explore the struggles she faced and the moments of experimentation, joy and hope.

The exhibition is part of MAC’s Art, Nature and Wellbeing season, inspired by Cannon Hill Park’s 150th anniversary.

The Clouds Will Burst the Sun Will Shine Again featured an extensive collection of work by self-taught artist Madge Gill (1882 – 1961). The exhibition collates significant works by the celebrated ‘Outsider’ artist, who took inspiration from spirituality and nature. An ‘Outsider’ artist is a term used to describe an artist, who has not had formal training or worked within conventional structures of art production, and often does not engage with the mainstream art world.

With a quality of instinctive urgency, Gill’s works are experimental and explorative, ranging from mediumistic drawings in ink and pencil, to large-scale textile artworks that span the length of the gallery walls. The exhibition’s connection to Birmingham is woven through a personal relationship to the work held by Birmingham-born curator, Sophie Dutton. Sophie discovered the work of Gill through a familial connection, leading to a substantial research project on the late artist that informs the exhibition.

The pieces on display resonate with MAC’s wider autumn programme, focused on the role of art and nature on our wellbeing. Key themes of spirituality, pain, and nature in The Clouds Will Burst the Sun Will Shine Again, closely link to themes within the exhibitions Worlds Away and Watershed, concurrently on display. Gill’s drawings, paintings and embroidery feature repetitive patterns of flowers, swirling shapes, female faces and figures – and are intrinsically linked with the turmoil Gill experienced throughout her lifetime.

Sophie’s comment “I quickly found her story had an impact on others. When I held workshops, or spoke to people with or without a connection to her – her artwork acted as a gateway for others to express their stories, I’ve found people really connect with her on so many levels, and in turn open up themselves. “I never thought I’d be curating exhibitions or writing articles or a book about her. It’s a really special moment for it to be coming to Birmingham and MAC.”

Gill faced hardships in her life, including severe mental health challenges. Her artistic production increased substantially during the 1930s, and she began creating ink drawings on postcards, sheets of card, and long rolls of untreated calico cloth. Gill worked for hours and often overnight on her pieces, and rarely parted with her works. Her lifetime body of work remained largely intact and kept in her East Ham house at the time of her death. Works were found stored all over the house in cupboards, under the bed, and in the attic, demonstrating the sheer volume of art Gill created during her life.

This extraordinary collection of work explores the cathartic act of making and creating, and investigates the role of art and nature for our wellbeing.

Words by Eibhlín Kissack & Sophie Dutton. Image Henry Boxer Gallery

Close Menu