Unknowable but Certain, Billy Childish at the ICA 17th February – 18th April
Institute of Contemporary Arts
Title: Son of Art 2008, Oil on canvas.
It was refreshing to see Billy Childish at the ICA. In the light of the current Van Gogh’s exhibition at the Royal Academy going on and which had infused me with a kind of nostalgia for the kind of artistic practises and values of old I was pleasantly surprised to be introduced to Billy Childish’s art at the ICA.
The Exhibition is very well curated and I recommend going and seeing it before April 18th.
Billy Childish’s approach of expressing personal emotional responses to his life and influences throughout his career is refreshing because one can so immediately relate to the work. The Lower Gallery is entirely taken up with his paintings. The smell of oil and turps faintly hangs in the air, and Childish’s fluid impasto brushstrokes flow into quite simple compositions reminiscent in style of painter’s pre modernism.
What is most striking is the honesty and energy, and immediacy of the painted story, which at first glance I assumed was his story but found out later, is an allusion to Swiss Writer Robert Walsers and his story as well.
The introduction in the Gallery Guide mentions Robert Walser, Knut Hamsun both writers Edvard Munch, Mikhail Larinovov and others as Childish’s network of influences, and attached to that is the label ‘anti-heroism, which is very much what Childish identifies with throughout his career of painting, prolific poetry and prose writings and of course ‘punk’ musician.
To be an anti-hero relates to being ‘a creative archetype, sometimes ‘the misunderstood’ that embodies the intensity of worldly experience and the problematic attempt to translate it into art’.
I can not think of many contemporary artists being shown at present who still purely work on those innate principles and who feel passionate about the necessity to express intimacy raw emotion and compassion openly.
Billy Childish’s seemingly ‘out-of-time’ approach to art making can be seen as an unwittingly radical gesture, and the ICA curators offer us a hopeful and engaging look and pointer, that humanitarianism is alive and well in the art of Billy Childish today.
To explore his work further check on this website: