Who? The late medium Ethel Le Rossignol, who claimed her dreamlike paintings were psychically transmitted to her by a ghost-artist named “J.P.F.”
What? 21 paintings depicting sylph-like creatures, tigers, apes and watery spirits, created by Ethel (with the help of J.P.F) during 1920 – 1933 will go on display at the Horse Hospital from tomorrow. For decades the swirling, colourful pictures hung on the walls of The College of Psychic Studies in South Kensington, an institution founded in 1884 to investigate psychic phenomena. This is the first time they’ve been exhibited elsewhere.
"Ethel’s paintings pre-dated psychedelia by decades but the facts about her life are as hazy as the ghostly spirit she channelled"
Why? Ethel’s paintings pre-dated psychedelia by decades. But the facts about her life are as hazy as the ghostly spirit she channelled. Aside from rumours that losing friends and relatives in the first world war fuelled her interest in the afterlife, very little is known about the enigmatic artist – the Horse Hospital hopes this exhibition might bring to light new discoveries. The show will coincide with a series of events delving into the College of Psychic Studies’ archive, the most intriguing of which is An Evening with Gef, the Talking Mongoose on March 19. Gef supposedly inhabited an Isle of Man farmhouse belonging to the Irving family during the 1930s, where he threw objects at visitors, danced to the gramophone and interrupted conversations with inappropriate asides from a peep-hole in the wood panelling, causing a media storm at the time. Was Gef a spirit? A miniature man-weasel? Or a projection from a disturbed family’s collective psyche? (It’s possible Irving’s precociously clever teenage daughter may have held the clue to the mongoose’s behaviour.) The Horse Hospital will screen Vanished! A Video Séance, inspired by the shadowy events that unfolded in this windswept farmhouse, followed by a Q&A with writer-directors Tony Grisoni and Brian Catling.
A Goodly Company: Ethel Le Rossignol opens at The Horse Hospital February 22 and runs until March 22.
Text by Hannah Lack