LONDON.- The ICA
presents a major solo exhibition by artist, musician and writer Billy Childish. The artist was born in 1959 in Chatham in Kent, where he still lives, and his prodigious range of activities can best be understood as a total work of art one which centres on his own extraordinary persona. Childish is a cult figure, and one who has gained an international following, but this exhibition is the first occasion on which a public institution has attempted to encompass his long and wide-ranging career.
Childish is in many ways a natural figure for the ICA to present, given the range of his activities he has practised as an artist, painter, author, poet, photographer, film maker, singer and guitarist which fits the multi-disciplinary sensibility that is characteristic of the institution.
For this show, the ICAs lower gallery features a group of Childishs recent paintings. They include self-portraits of the artist, often shown hill-walking; images of boats on the Medway, the estuary where he lives; still-lifes with flowers, featuring pots made by the artists mother; and paintings depicting the Swiss modernist writer Robert Walser, including works based on police photographs showing the author dead in the snow. Childishs paintings have an unusual command and power. They are highly expressionistic, conveying a sense of the visionary significance that he discovers in objects, places and people and also demonstrate the deliberate rejection of the contemporary world for a more traditional discernment that is a feature of all his work.
The ICAs upper galleries present Childishs output as a musician and writer, covering a career which began in 1977, and providing a context within which the recent paintings can be understood. One room concentrates on his music, which has involved a huge range of collaborators and bands, and which maintains a stubbornly independent ethos originating in the punk era. Childish is the creator of more than one hundred LPs and as many singles. His prolific production stems from a DIY ethos that transcends all his work.
The other room features books and pamphlets containing Childishs writings, often designed and published by him and illustrated by his own woodcuts. Childish has written over forty collections of poems