Not Without My Ghosts: The Artist As Medium

A Hayward Gallery Touring Exhibition, 2020 – 2021


The topos of the artist as a divinely chosen individual or medium of divine inspiration is as old as art itself. In the Christian-Western history of ideas we find, as it were, a mirror image: on the side of transcendence God the creator, on the side of immanence the divinely inspired creative individual. It was against this backdrop that the art historical concept of artistic genius developed. Since the emergence of spiritualism in the mid-19th century, a doctrine has emerged that allowed such grand, pathetic and exaggerated concepts to be incorporated into a quasi-empirical framework. Artistic works could be an expression of the direct influence of disembodied entities. As a medium of higher beings, the artist was still a chosen one, but at the same time his status as the author of the works produced by his hands became precarious.

The genealogy and range of this artistic collaboration with unseen entities by people who are, according to their self-perception, artists and those who see themselves as mediums is explored by the Heyward Gallery in a touring exhibition entitled Not Without My Ghosts: The Artist As Medium. Curated by Lars Bang Larsen, Simon Grant, and Marco Pasi, the exhibition opens its doors in September at the Drawing Room in London.

More than 30 international artists from the late 19th century to the present day, whose work is inspired by ideas revolving around spiritualism, enter into dialogue. The exhibition takes in works based on spirit experiences performed in states of trance, practices of automatism, surrealist experiments, ritualised forms of occultism, and communications with spiritual beings and under the influence of spirit guides.

The exhibition takes its starting point with the visionary works of William Blake, informed by his own background in Swedenborgian ideas – the same background that largely influenced the belief system of “Modern Spiritualism” which in its wake brought forth a host of drawing mediums. A number of works by fascinating Victorian spiritualist mediums Georgiana Houghton, Anna Mary Howitt, and Barbara Honywood will be shown. Not Without My Ghosts introduces the Surrealists' experiments with automatic drawing, as well as the combination of ritual magic with the techniques of automatic drawing, as practiced above all by Austin Osman Spare, Marjorie Cameron, and Ithell Colquhoun.

Not only of art-historical interest is the display of the mediumistic drawing by Mme Fondrillon, which André Breton had used in 1925 as the lead image for his fundamental article "Pourquoi je prends la direction de la révolution surréaliste". Other prominent representatives of mediumistic art, such as Madge Gill or Augustin Lesage are also present in the show, as well as a number of stimulating modern and contemporary artists such as Louise Despont, Chiara Fumai, Susan Hiller, Pia Lindman, Ann Lislegaard and others.

Not Without My Ghosts: The Artist As Medium is a Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition from Southbank Centre, London, developed in partnership with Drawing Room, curated by Lars Bang Larsen, Simon Grant and Marco Pasi. It will travel to Blackpool, Sheffield and Swansea later in the year.

Exhibition tour dates:

Drawing Room, London: 10 September – 1 November 2020
Millennium Gallery, Museums Sheffield: 19 November 2020 – 7 March 2021
Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea: 20 March – June 13 2021
Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool: Dates to be confirmed.

Image courtesy


nwmgExhibition catalogue

Not Without My Ghosts
Susan Aberth, Simon Grant, Lars Bang Larson (eds.)
Hayward Publishing
ISBN 9781853323737








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