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Billy Childish

Press release


Billy Childish
skulls
wolfs
nudes
rope pullers
and a nervous breakdown


neugerriemschneider is pleased to present skulls wolfs nudes rope pullers and a nervous breakdown, an exhibition of new paintings by Billy Childish and the artist’s fifth at the gallery. Made over the past three years, the paintings present new and familiar subject matter and have been specially chosen by the artist for this exhibition out of a wider body of related work. Imagery of wolves moving at night, manual laborers and nudes casts an eye on the timeless present. While in a spirit of defiance and strength, self-portraits of the artist respond to a period of psychological struggle. Offering a leitmotif for the exhibition and collapsing the eternal with the finite, skulls appear in groups as still lifes. In the spirit of a memento mori, they affirm our appreciation of life and the living.

“With no forward planning I begin to paint. The purpose and process are one: to find out what the painting wishes to be and what it might reveal to me. I get out the way and allow. I serve the needs of the painting not my ego. Any meaning or psychological aspect that comes forth, comes from the collective unconscious. The unconscious wishes to say hello and become integrated. In this way the painting comes into being.” – Billy Childish, 2020.

Childish’s often extemporaneously conjured sources of inspiration range from the universal to the specific, from his immediate surroundings and family, to spiritually engaged musings on sexuality, mortality and the beauty of the natural world. Childish employs variations on favored motifs, shaping chance narratives and networks between his subjects that often only emerge in retrospect. His images develop organically, serendipitously forming compositions that stage scenes and pose questions rather than answer them definitively. Childish describes them as bringing the viewer into an “erratic dream,” acting on the subconscious to reveal universal truths. The paintings are set by the artist amongst wooden benches, rugs and plant life and enveloped in walls painted in tones of teal, tan and brown. As such, Childish offers a meditative space to draw the viewer into contemplation.
Billy Childish (b. 1959) is a prolific painter, musician, poet and novelist, active since the 1970s. Often drawing from the autobiographical, Childish produces intuitive works, which recall the styles and psychological approaches of his influences. Childish depicts locations and individuals from both past and present, combining observation with a liberated painterly language that informs, evolves and mutates fluidly from one painting to the next.

A catalogue entitled skulls wolfs nudes rope pullers and a nervous breakdown, published on the occasion of the exhibition at neugerriemschneider, features poetry and prose by the artist. Three handmade chapbooks of new poetry by Childish have been especially published by Viper’s Tongue Press to coincide with the opening. Childish has also recorded a new LP, The New Improved Bob Dylan, released on his own label Hangman Records (the first LP release on this label in 19 years). Recent solo exhibitions include mountain view house, the Goss-Michael Foundation, Dallas (2017); Man with Jackdaw, Villa Schöningen, Potsdam (2017); unbegreiflich aber gewiss, Kunst- und Kulturstiftung Opelvillen, Rüsselsheim (2016); Paintings Sweet Paintings, Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen (2014); Billy Childish. Frozen Estuary and Other Paintings of the Divine Ordinary, No. I Smithery, The Historic Dockyard, Chatham (2012); Billy Childish. Unknowable but Certain, ICA Institute of Contemporary Art, London (2010), and Billy Childish, White Columns, New York (2010).

For further press information and imagery, please contact Sophie Furse at neugerriemschneider: +49 30 288 772 77 or sophie@neugerriemschneider.com