Through a range of subjects, usually rooted in history and its visual traces, Charlie Billingham has been forming a practice that celebrates and questions painting and it’s heritage. Cropped, flipped, and reiterated: sections of prints and paintings are taken by Billingham and used to form compositions, which are explored in different colours and finishes.
For a series of works in 2012, Billingham looked closely at sections of etchings from Regency England, by George Cruikshank and JamesGillray. These paintings were originally displayed on a vast wall decorated with a repeated relief print of a monkey holding onto its neighbours’ tails and feet, thus positioning the paintings into the realm of interior design. A Voluptuary Under the Horrors of Digestion, which was painted at the same time, uses an image of the Prince regent from Gillray’s eponymous 1792 engraving; Billingham stretches the images to fill the panoramic canvas emphasising George’s large distended belly.
In the summer of 2013, Billingham graduated from the Royal Academy Schools, with his show Coming Out. The exhibition explored revelations andmasks and Billingham used imagery from drawings and prints from 17th century Italy and England, and 19th century France. The paintings were hung on walls adorned with wiggly mirrors, with the screen-printed motif of a revolving door repeated on them. The mirrors evoke the wobbly screen used in cartoons to demonstrate a dream or memory sequence. At the centre of the show, one of the revelations paintings was set into a wooden table, glazed with a large sheet of glass. Around the room, large plants stood in Cretan terracotta pots painted by the artist. Between them, statues from the Royal Academy cast collection stood on felted plinths; surrounded by cire trudon scented candles and room sprays, evoking the deeply emotional feelings conjured by a well-considered interior.
For Open Heart Surgery, Billingham has set up a rhythm between a series of paintings and sets of mirrors in two separate but overlapped sequences. Taking inspiration from one of Otto Dix’s etchings of German soldiers from the First World War dancing with prostitutes, Billingham’s paintings use different colours, crops and compositions. The canvases dance playfully over the mirrors, which have the revolving doors motif printed on them; evoking the graceful spinning of a couple waltzing or a ballerina pirouetting.
Born in 1984 in London, Charlie Billingham has been living and working in London since 2008, the year he completed his joint honours MA at the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh College of Art in Fine Art and the History of Art. He has just graduated from a three-year postgraduate degree at the Royal Academy Schools in London. As well as his solo graduation show Coming Out (2013), he has been in recent group shows including: Febreze (2013) at Kinman Gallery, London, New Order: British Art Today (2013) at the Saatchi Gallery, London, Clay Pipe (2013) at Galerie HFBK, Hamburg, Assemble (2013) at Liquid courage Gallery, Nassau, Another Room (2012) at R O O M Artspace, London and Premiums Interim Projects (2012) at the Royal Academy, London.