Billy Childish:A Rock Poet between the Spiritual and Natural World


From 23 March, 2024, He Art Museum (HEM) presents exhibition “A Rock Poet between the Spiritual and Natural World”. The exhibition features Billy Childish’s artistic practices in active dialogue with Chinese landscape paintings in HEM’s collection. Driven by the artists’ sensibility, they borrow from heaven and earth, unveiling a series of spiritual journeys amid nature.

Billy Childish is known for his introspective, autobiographical, and deeply emotional paintings, writing, and music. His subjects are often drawn from his environment or are people he knows or admires: birch forests, self-portraits, a lone figure in a pastoral English landscape and so on. Childish works quickly and intuitively, making spare marks on raw canvas that leave much of it visible. He identifies with artists who worked outside a group or movement, intrigued by their outsider roles in society, such as Vincent van Gogh, Kurt Schwitters, and Edvard Munch. Labeling himself a “radical traditionalist,” Childish has a reverence for traditional oil painting yet has resolutely resisted any connection with a particular group or artistic movement.

Childish believes life is a spiritual journey connecting heaven and earth. His paintings consistently feature landscapes, people and himself. In this sense, creative expression is not only a means to reflect the beauty of nature, but also a mirror of personal consciousness and experience. This seems to coincide with the worldview of traditional Chinese ink painting, which emphasizes the spiritual meanings rather than the objects themself. Whether it is in Western art discourse or Oriental aesthetic traditions, they are all humanistic landscapes interwoven with the times, culture, society, nature, philosophy, and so on.