May 17, 2019

Billy Childish @ Carl Freedman Gallery, Margate, Kent - man in the mouth of a cave

Billy Childish: man in the mouth of a cave
Carl Freedman Gallery, Margate, Kent
26 May - 25 August, 2019 

Carl Freedman Gallery opens in Margate, Kent on Saturday 25th May with a major solo show of new work by British painter Billy Childish.

After purchasing part of the old Thanet Press building in the centre of town, Carl Freedman’s new HQ spans 10,000 square foot of a concrete 1960s commercial building. The site includes three exhibition spaces, an artist apartment and an upper floor dedicated to Freedman’s print publishing business Counter Editions. ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for us to present larger-scale solo presentations by our artists as well as more expansive curated shows. Margate is going through an amazing transformation, led by a growing art community, and we are excited to be a part of the future of the town’s creative-led regeneration’ – Carl Freedman.

The inaugural exhibition man in the mouth of a cave by Billy Childish introduces new themes in the artist’s oeuvre of swimming and wild uninhibited nature. Free of irony or superficial novelty, these paintings espouse values of authenticity, spirituality, and beauty, conveying a sense of a vivid physical presence. Above all, they express Childish’s earnest engagement with life. Waterfalls, the sea, caves, trees, nudes and the artist himself are recurring motifs. In some works the mouths of caves suggest the religious motif of the empty tomb, in others a dark, Styx-like river.

Present throughout is a quality of quiet melancholy combined with a vibrating, somewhat hallucinatory energy, rendered through Billy Childish’s roiling brushwork. Childish’s canvases clearly bear the marks of the art-historical lineage of which Childish feels himself a part. Interlocking patterns and forms cluster, coalesce, and dissipate, working as vehicles for Childish’s Munch-like preoccupation with colour. Staccato brushstrokes are contained by more flowing, sinuous lines, recalling the visionary intensity of German Expressionism.

Embedded in a tradition stretching back into the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Billy Childish’s work is still – as ever – insistently and idiosyncratically his own. As Billy Childish states: ‘You could say that these paintings are ultrapostmodernist; they’ve absorbed everything, and then decided what’s of value. Each one is an exultation of being a painting.’ Unconcerned with any narrative of progress within his practice each painting – whether a depiction of his nude body or a birch tree – is, for Billy Childish, a form of self-portraiture. In his own words: ‘As I work fluidly from painting to painting, theme to theme, so the cycles develop organically and explain themselves without my prescription. In essence I am painting one painting that is everchanging as if of its own volition – the painting of myself.’

In association with Damaged Good Records, Carl Freedman Gallery presents Wild Billy Childish & CTMF live in concert at Margate’s Theatre Royal on Sunday 16th June 2019, from 7pm. Tickets are on sale now via the Theatre Royal box office and website (click here:

Billy Childish is a prolific painter, author, poet, publisher, and musician. Born in 1959 in Chatham, Kent. He has extensively exhibited and performed internationally. Exhibitions include: heaven’s journey, Neugerriemschneider, Berlin (2018); man with jackdaw, Villa Schöningen, Berlin (2017); mountain view house, Goss Michael Foundation, Dallas (2017); Billy Childish: incomprehensible but certainly, Opelvillen, Rüsselsheim, Germany (2016); Billy Childish in Print (A Survey), Rochester Art Gallery, Kent (2016); the house at grass valley, Carl Freedman Gallery, London (2016); flowers, nudes and birch trees, Lehmann Maupin, New York (2015); Billy Childish. Frozen estuary and Other Paintings of the Divine Ordinary, The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent; Billy Childish: Unknowable but Certain, ICA, London (2010). The artist lives and works in Kent, England.

28 Union Crescent, Margate, Kent, CT9 1NS, England