This blog touches the surface on Billy Childish the Painter (not the singer and guitarist (in bands including Thee Headcoats, The Buff Medways, the MBE’s or the CTMF), author, poet, photographer and film maker) andthe beautiful ‘box collection’ (to accompany his 2013 art exhibitions in Berlin, New York and Los Angeles) I bought when I went to his first solo exhibition entitled “Darkness Was Here Yesterday” at Carl Freedman Gallery last Tuesday.
As an artist alone (i.e. not the above CV) the volume of his output is daunting. His paintings, woodcuts and sketches are raw, reflective, beautiful, solitary. The courage of his artistic convictions literally pours out of the canvasses, and the pages of each book. I expressed my disbelief to Billy at the sheer weight of the work at the PV. “There’s more” simply came the reply.
Billy Childish occupies a world that many strive to live themselves – his is a life driven by the perpetual desire to make a mark, to say something and perform – just to “get it out there”. No bullshit – right down to the earthiness in the way these beautiful exhibition books are bound.
Designed by Billy and Steve Lowe at L-13 – (Light Industrial Workshop and Private Ladies and Gentlemen’s Club for Art, Leisure and the Disruptive Betterment of Culture*). The cloth coated outer slip case houses three books: grey hardboard covers, quarter bound with heavily debossed letterpress type. Each book comprises 72 pages, filled with paintings and close-ups in detail.
Also accompanying the exhibition is a new 10” LP by the CTMF and a book of poetry but I can’t feature these two items as I’m talking about the artist (such is the output of the chap)!
I asked Billy about the ’traditional’ choice of his medium, and importantly, the physicality of the process that results in the work – whether it’s the preparation / exertion in producing a woodcut over and again, or striving for perfection on a hardback book bind (coming from pre-Mac design education I’m drawn to the more ‘analogue’ art of screen printing, litho, etching, letterpress and hot metal compositing) as to me, it’s a perennially beautiful feeling of craft – not mass-market “buy now fall apart later” stuff. He called himself a ‘radical traditionalist’ saying “Tradition is all we’ve got. But I don’t think I am anything, and refuse to be limited by actions… people don’t get books anymore – only a few of us care. But that also makes it fun”. The entire experience of the evening felt honest and refreshing when compared to todays “style is everything” mantra.
I’m a big fan. Get to the exhibition before it closes.
“Darkness Was Here Yesterday” at Carl Freedman Gallery
September 19-October 26, 2013 http://www.carlfreedman.com/exhibition/billy-childish-darkness-was-here-yesterday
Billy Childish website: http://billychyldish.com
L-13 website: http://www.l-13.org
All images reproduced by kind consent of the artist