New York, 28 September 2012—L-13 Light Industrial Workshop, in collaboration with neugerriemschneider, Berlin and Lehmann Maupin, New York, are pleased to announce a special exhibition of new work by Billy Childish – the first significant show of his paintings in London since his major survey exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art in 2010.
Frozen Estuary and Other Paintings of the Divine Ordinary, Part II will be on view during London’s Frieze Art Fair, opening to the public on Tuesday, 9 October and running through Sunday, 21 October at Hoxton Arches, Arch 402 Cremer Street, London E2 8HD. The exhibition will be open to the public every day from 11 AM – 7PM.
The exhibition features seventeen new works, including large-scale oil paintings and smaller watercolors, all created over the past year while Childish was an artist-in-residence at the Historic Dockyard in his hometown of Chatham. The majority of these works were exhibited at the dockyard over the summer, and are currently on view at the museum’s gallery until 30 September.
At the dockyard, Childish created a significant body of work for various exhibitions around the world, all underpinned by a cycle of paintings depicting the frozen Medway and Thames Estuaries during the harsh winters of 1895 and 1947. Through these paintings, Childish combines his own iconography, memories, and connections with collective, historical, and cultural reference to weave his own narratives and channels of meaning.
“I was born in Chatham, by the River Medway. Up until I was 9 we went on family holidays, several times a year, to Seasalter: a stretch of shingle on the North Kent Coast/Thames Estuary, lined with weatherboard shacks. As a toddler I would be taken crabbing on the flats by some older girls, then in 1963 the sea froze and the crabs were all but wiped out. That stuck in my mind. There were other stories the grown ups spoke of: a lady drowned after getting lost in the fog whilst out cockling; a great wave that washed away the shacks in the floods of the 1950s. Later, as a teenager, I was an apprentice stonemason in the Naval Dockyard at Chatham. Here the old lags told me about the big freeze in 1947 when some of the fellows walked to work over the river.The stories I heard as a youngster have remained the most potent with me: they are what grips the imagination; when you’re a kid you know less of the boundaries of the world – have never read a map – and you’re listing to men and women who are from another age (many of them brought up by Victorians), then the truth becomes very fluid.
The Frozen Estuary paintings started from an old photo I found of ice-bound ships on the Medway during a big freeze in 1890’s. This lead me to look for other references and I happened across a group of photos belonging to a family who farmed oysters on the Essex side of the estuary, many showing the big freeze of 1947. Like most kids I loved it when the world was stopped by snow; when great buses were trapped and school was abandoned. To see ships held in ice – the sea itself frozen – that’s something every imagination is drawn to and can wonder at.”
Billy Childish, May 2012
Billy Childish was born in Chatham, Kent in 1959. After leaving secondary school at sixteen—and being denied an interview to the local art school—he was employed at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham as an apprentice stonemason. During this short period of employment he produced about six hundred drawings, which gained him entry to London’s St. Martin’s School of Art.
Childish’s defiance of the formalities of art education eventually led to his expulsion in 1981. He then embarked on an artistic, literary, and musical odyssey exploring a broad range of worldly themes including the sexual abuse he experienced as a child, and alcoholism. Made over 35 years of continual creative activity, this extensive body of work has included the publication of five novels; more than forty volumes of confessional poetry; the production of over one hundred albums, and many cycles of oil paintings, woodcuts, and graphic works, which have earned Childish a legendary reputation worldwide.
His work has been the subject of important solo and group exhibitions in New York, London, Seoul, and Berlin, including major concurrent solo exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London and White Columns, New York in 2010. He also participated in the British Art Show 5, which toured throughout four cities in the UK: Edinburgh, Southampton, Cardiff, and Birmingham.