LondonBilly Childish: where the black water slid
Live painting performance: Wednesday 29 June, 1pm-6pm
Lehmann Maupin presents where the black water slid, an exhibition of new work by Billy Childish.
A true Renaissance man, the British artist is at once painter, printmaker, musician, photographer, and writer. In addition to his paintings, works on paper, and multiples, Childish has produced hundreds of albums of music and numerous volumes of fiction and poetry. As a painter, Childish works quickly and intuitively, often creating his kinetic compositions in a single session without any revision. Working primarily on linen, his canvases exude a warm glow, and his palette is often natural and earthy, reflecting the tenor of the traditional art historical subjects—seascapes, figure in the landscape, still lives—he engages. His subjects are frequently people he knows or admires or drawn from his environment: birch forests, bathers, self-portraits, or his wife as a reclining female nude are recurring themes.
For where the black water slid, Childish explores the classic theme of the bather, with many works featuring swimmers immersed in swirling waters or figures wading in pools and caves fed by rushing waterfalls. Rendered in deep hues of green and brown offset with bright white accents, these works portray idyllic scenes of leisure and relaxation, and suggest deep communion with both nature and self. Other paintings depict bathers fully immersed in bright, glistening water, with colorful refractions reflected across the picture plane, showcasing Childish’s dynamic treatment of water and light. where the black water slid also includes work from Chidlish’s recent skull series, set in natural landscapes. Recalling the tradition of vanitas painting, these memento mori poetically remind viewers to cherish that which is most important in life—family, friends, and time spent in the natural world.
While his painting style and surrealist landscapes are often compared to those of fin de siècle expressionist painters such as Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch, it is the ethos these artists represent—their spiritual and creative integrity—that is most compelling for Childish. A total artist, Childish has long embodied these qualities in his trenchant anti-establishment, anti-authority stance and his reverence for traditional, representational oil painting regardless of its status within contemporary artistic discourse. An unabashed universalist, Childish considers artistry to be the inheritance of every human being, a method to capture the expressive impulse and visualize the powerful lure of beauty and its innate connection to the divine.
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)