Amateurism rules!

Thick and fast at the moment, eh? An impressive rush of what Julia Cameron (no relation to David, thank God) would call abundance.  Here’s today’s missive.

Still on a bid to do better, be better – took myself on a jog round the park, finally used the incredible Japan Centre near Picadilly to buy wonton wrappers, lovely fresh sushi and a can of oolong tea – just soaking up London on the first warm day of the year.  And then I did the unthinkable – I entered the ICA.

Unthinkable because the place is so bloody aloof.  Firstly, the door is small, more of a portal, so you never sure what awaits you – in fact all you can see is a large white desk with an aloof intellectually coiffed person sat behind it.  They don’t want you to come in – you’re wearing trainers, not brogues and may smell of sweat.  Not the welcome I imagine Billy Childish would want, and it was his exhibition that I wanted to see.  So I made it through the door, did some pretend texting while I got my bearings (no way was I going to ask one of the desk people, they would probably point out that they were part of the exhibition and I was an idiot for not understanding).  Finally, after much pretending to look at phone while actually peering through my jogger’s fringe (in your face art person!)  I located the gallery, established that it was free and entered.  Tentatively,  behind a robust German family who had felt no need to indulge in any performance art to find it.

I really like Billy Childish – I don’t know anything about him and the ICA keep you guessing by leaving out those effusive notices that accompany exhibitions at the Tate and tell you everything about the artist, the picture, the medium, the response, the period.  I think I heard on the radio that the ICA is a bit hard up, so the only introductory note points you towards a perspex box  full of leaflets on the wall and suggests that if you want to know anything, pay a quid and read away.  Being a student, I declined – not only do I not have any money – I also have the brains (what with being a student) to work my own narrative out.

The first room I enter is some of his more recent paintings and they’re stunning – really bold, a crazy palette, often appearing unfinished, but great.  They contain stories, relationships that you can invent, not in that abstract wanky whistle on a toilet bowl way, but including things like shadowy half glimpsed figures near a dead body – Kent noir. I’ve been reliably informed by the art critic (my boyfriend) that his paintings are shit, but I disagree.  I liked looking at them up close and at distance and when I left the room I kept peeking my head round the corner to reconsider.

Then I have to bury my head back in my phone as I try to work out where the rest of the exhibition is (this place is so arch and unwelcoming).  I end up in a cafe where people are sitting with Apple Macs.  Clearly whatever they are ‘working on’ is dull, as their heads tilt upwards whenever the next stranger stumbles in. I pretend text my way up some stairs into two rooms joined by a flamboyant yellow suit with an arm band emblazoned with ‘British Art Resistance’.  Turns out Billy’s a big one for causes and movements and then rejecting said causes and movements.  I like him.  One room is dedicated to his poetry and these woodcut frontispieces he designed for his publishing house, Hangman – so there’s writing and art – the poetry celebrates his dyslexia, pays no attention to punctuation or spelling and is quite conversational but never derivative.   Next door is playing Billy’s tunes on a loop and displays much of the artwork he came up with for his many albums.  And I had no idea he was so prolific!  More guises than Prince!

The music supports the impression that I’m building up of Billy (no thanks to the ICA leaflet) – its ‘jangly and shouty, but melodic, not arty Fourtet weirdness.  Eminently danceable.  There are two people with fifteen haircuts apiece on their head and they’ve decided to glue themselves to headsets attached to a video display of Billy Childish moving around on a screen.  I can’t be bothered to wait.  I think Billy would approve.  Actually, he’d possibly stage his own live performance art in the opposite corner (time to pretend text?), but I decide its best to go.

I liked the artist so much, I looked him up on Wikipedia.  He’s big into Amateurism, which I am translating as ‘having a bash’ – this I like, be it attempting to make dim sum or performing feminist cabaret.  I am an acolyte and I have found my true leader.  Childish, this one’s for you.