S+ Stimulant: Georgiana Houghton
“I fell straight into the trap of saying it was a piece of 1960s or 1970s psychedelia. Turns out it was 1865. I was a hundred years out.”
— Barnaby Wright, Curator of London’s Courthauld Gallery
Georgiana Houghton, born in 1814 and raised in London, was a mind ahead of her time. A pioneer in the field of spiritualism and a medium, Houghton claimed to channel the dead into her beautiful, intricate watercolors that hinted towards art’s future. On the back of her captivating pieces are lines and lines of automatic writing, meant to communicate the intentions of the spirits she channeled.
Her works are unlike anything else being created at the time, vividly colored and abstractly layered in ways that preceded the movements of her time. In her first and only exhibition in 1871, however, her paintings, writings and drawings perplexed critics and proved to be a commercial flop. As a woman in a field dominated by men and with an unorthodox technique of creation, she was fighting an uphill battle. The public refused to make sense of her work and had a field day lampooning her methods.
Yet 150 years later, her works are being approached with fresh, open minds. Rather than mock her, the public is recognizing her spiraling color gradients, abstract patterning, and interwoven webs as trailblazing, emotionally resonant, and unprecedented. In turn, her process is also up for reconsideration: is it really that unbelievable that one can create from a connection to some deep, spiritual element?
Published: October 14th, 2016