Friday, 19 March 2010


Billy Childish has made over 100 albums. The ICA has a wall displaying 95. There must be someone, somewhere, who collects them. If you ever stumble across them in the pub, move away. “Fancy coming round to listen to my Billy Childish records?” No, you’re all right thanks. Can you imagine? Like being relentlessly bludgeoned with an old bicycle pump. I prefer to nibble away in more manageable chunks but as this major exhibition shows if you want to gorge on Chatman’s most famous son there’s an enormous feast to be had.

Oil paintings, poems, music, films, novels, woodcuts, homemade publications, placards and a bright yellow suit also celebrate the dogged determination, artistic integrity, single bloody mindedness and – let’s not forget – talent, of a true maverick treasure.

In the quality versus quantity debate it’s clear which camp Billy’s hobnails are in. Which isn’t to say there isn’t quality but there’s a restless air of stick it out there and move on to the next thing, which is part of the charm, even if it’s an often quickly forgotten one.

Billy Childish: Unknowable but Certain is at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Mall, London, SW1 until 18 April 2010, admission free.

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