I’ve been thinking a lot about the ‘purpose’ of exhibiting today. In his essay ‘Cosmic Cavalcade’, the historian Gary Haines asks “What drove Gill to exhibit?”. She wasn’t interested in selling her work, as an Evening Standard article from November 1939 testifies. I sometimes struggle with this as well. My drawings are so personal that I find it difficult letting go. At last month’s Bow Arts Open studios I sold three pieces – undoubtedly a great achievement and something I was very pleased with. However, it did feel strange allowing people to walk off with something that is, in effect, part of me.
From 1932 to 1947 Gill was present in all but one East End Academy show. Haines suggests that perhaps her reasons were purely practical, quoting a Times article from August 1947: “It appears she exhibits…mainly in order to have the opportunity of seeing the whole picture spread out on the wall.” I’m not sure I feel the same. I do want to share my drawings with people, but I also find it incredibly stressful. The worst moment is the private view. I have been brought to the brink of tears by disapproving glances or comments about my work! This is undoubtedly quite bizarre considering I spend a lot of my time critiquing other artists’ work!
In 1948 Gill suddenly stopped exhibiting. Perhaps she was ticked off with the Whitechapel Gallery’s new submission policies. This is pretty unlikely. Gill shunned publicity for fear of offending her spirit guide, maintaining her work did not belong to her but actually to ‘Myrninrest’. I hope I never reach that stage but I can understand what Gill felt. I want to almost ‘protect’ my drawings. I know that sounds strange but I am quite paternalistic towards them. They are not separate objects or commodities.
My drawings are part of me.