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toward a shore

toward a shore
signed with the artist's symbol and dated '19' (lower left)
oil and charcoal on linen
96 x 72in. (244 x 183cm.)
Executed in 2019
Lehmann Maupin, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
New York, Lehmann Maupin, remember all the / high and exalted things / remember all the low / and broken things, 2020.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

Rendered on an immersive scale, toward a shore is a vivid, evocative work by the visionary British artist, writer and musician Billy Childish. Executed in 2019, it stems from a recent series of oil and charcoal works depicting bathing figures, each a deliquescent spectacle of blue, green and ochre tones. A solitary human form glides forwards in a secluded lagoon, the dappled sunlit water parting in the wake of outstretched limbs. The tree-lined shore glimmers in the distance, a visceral tangle of gnarled roots, stems and branches. Childish draws inspiration from artists including Edvard Munch and Vincent Van Gogh: interests that brought him close to Peter Doig, who became a champion of his practice. Intuitive, emotive and introspective, his paintings are often rooted in personal experience—the present work flickers with memories of time spent at the Yuba River in his wife’s native California, where he also created photographs of his daughter swimming. Here, the identity of the figure remains anonymous, their free-floating form suspended between worlds.

Born in 1959, Childish grew up in Chatham, Kent. His father and brother were both interested in painting, and artists such as Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, Munch and others were prominent in his childhood imagination. Despite initially being rejected from his local art school, his prolific output of drawings earned him a place at Saint Martin’s School of Art. During the 1980s he entered a relationship with Tracey Emin: both artists would have an important impact on one another’s work, with Childish’s name famously featuring in Emin’s fabric tent Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995 (1995). Alongside a vast output of novels, poetry and LPs, his paintings offer eloquent insights into his interior world, composed in single sittings with rapid, instinctive strokes. Like Kurt Schwitters before him—another major influence on his practice—Childish staunchly refuses to align himself with particular movements or styles. It is this, ultimately, that accounts for the unique quality of his works: in the crystalline silence of toward a shore, time seems to stand still, arrested in a single enchanted moment.

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