Georgiana Houghton

Georgiana Houghton, whose work pre-empted that of the abstract expressionists by nearly a century, is worthy of her place, for she was a true visionary. Barnaby Wright, Daniel Katz Curator of Twentieth Century Art at the Courtauld, said that when he was first sent an image of Houghton’s work he took it to be “a piece of psychedelic op art from the 1960s. Little did I realise that I was a full hundred years out.”

Houghton was trained as an artist, although no records have been found to indicate where. But it wasn’t until she learned of “spirit drawings” – images drawn by the spirits through the hand of a medium – that she set out with the serious ambition of becoming an artist, albeit one engaged in some unconventional collaborations. According to Houghton, various spirits and a whole host of archangels chose her as their conduit on Earth, expressing their stories, thoughts and advice through her in increasingly abstract ways. On the reverse of the drawings, through a type of automatic writing, every otherworldly participant gives their name and explains the symbolism behind the complex series of lines and bright hues that form her paintings.

...while she never achieved the recognition she deserved as an artist, she continued to work as a medium until her death.

Whether you believe that Houghton communed with the spirits to produce her extraordinary works is beside the point. Most visual artforms require a willing suspension of disbelief, and painting is no exception. What is beyond doubt is that she had an incredible command of colour, form and depth. Incredibly fine lines radiate out from tiny points on the page, crossing and crisscrossing like undulating streams, or strange signals streaming through some imperceptible space. Often Houghton uses white paint over the layers of colour, which form strings of tiny dots that spiral and crackle and...
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First Collected by

Suzan Hamer


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