Billy Childish at Carl Freedman Gallery

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Artist: Billy Childish

Exhibition title: the house at grass valley

Venue: Carl Freedman Gallery, London, UK

Date: April 7 – May 21, 2016

Photography: Andy Keate, all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Carl Freedman Gallery, London

Carl Freedman Gallery is proud to present the house at grass valley, our second solo exhibition by Billy Childish.

Free of irony or superficial novelty, these paintings espouse values of authenticity, spirituality, and beauty, conveying a sense of a vivid physical presence. Above all, they express Childish’s earnest engagement with life.

Rocks, rivers, caves, trees, nudes and the artist himself are recurring motifs. A geographically wide-ranging series of landscapes include a historical site in Northumberland, England imbued with Celtic spiritual significance, the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and the rocky outcrops of Althing in Iceland. In some works the mouths of caves suggest the religious motif of the empty tomb, in others a dark, Styx-like river. Present throughout is a quality of quiet melancholy combined with a vibrating, somewhat hallucinatory energy, rendered through Childish’s roiling brushwork.

Childish’s canvases clearly bear the marks of the art-historical lineage of which Childish feels himself a part. Interlocking patterns and forms cluster, coalesce, and dissipate, working as vehicles for Childish’s Munch-like preoccupation with colour. Staccato brushstrokes are contained by more flowing, sinuous lines, recalling the visionary intensity of German Expressionism. Embedded in a tradition stretching back into the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Childish’s work is still — as ever — insistently and idiosyncratically his own. As Childish states, “You could say that these paintings are ultra-postmodernist; they’ve absorbed everything, and then decided what’s of value. Each one is an exultation of being a painting.”

Unconcerned with any narrative of progress within his practice each painting — whether a depiction of his nude body or a birch tree — is, for Childish, a form of self-portraiture. In his own words, “As I work fluidly from painting to painting, theme to theme, so the cycles develop organically and explain themselves without my prescription. In essence I am painting one painting that is ever-changing as if of its own volition — the painting of myself.”

Billy Childish is a prolific painter, author, poet, publisher, and musician. Born in 1959 in Chatham, Kent, he has extensively exhibited and performed internationally. Exhibitions include Billy Childish: incomprehensible but certainly, Opel Villas Rüsselsheim, Germany (2016), Billy Childish in Print (A Survey), Rochester Art Gallery, Kent (2016), at segantini’s hut, Neugerriemschneider, Berlin (2015), flowers, nudes and birch trees, Lehmann Maupin, New York (2015), darkness was here yesterday, Carl Freedman Gallery, London (2013), Billy Childish. Frozen estuary and Other Paintings of the Divine Ordinary, The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent, Billy Childish: Unknowable but Certain, ICA, London (2010). The artist lives and works in Kent, England.

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Billy Childish, birches with bluebells, 2016
© Billy Childish, courtesy of Carl Freedman Gallery, photo: Andy Keate

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Billy Childish, birches with green shadows, 2016
© Billy Childish, courtesy of Carl Freedman Gallery, photo: Andy Keate

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Billy Childish, house at grass valley, 2016
© Billy Childish, courtesy of Carl Freedman Gallery, photo: Andy Keate

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Billy Childish, fallen birch tree, 2016
© Billy Childish, courtesy of Carl Freedman Gallery, photo: Andy Keate

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Billy Childish, rocks and cave, 2016
© Billy Childish, courtesy of Carl Freedman Gallery, photo: Andy Keate

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Billy Childish, in astrakhan hat, 2016
© Billy Childish, courtesy of Carl Freedman Gallery, photo: Andy Keate

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Billy Childish, sailish fisherman, 2015
© Billy Childish, courtesy of Carl Freedman Gallery, photo: Andy Keate

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Billy Childish, cave in winter, 2015
© Billy Childish, courtesy of Carl Freedman Gallery, photo: Andy Keate

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