ABOUT BILLY CHAINSAW
Photo by Darius Amini
Billy Chainsaw is a contemporary Pop Artist whose work uses a fertile mix of pulp and the arcane to engage with ideas of mortality, magick and sensuality.
With his up-cycling of ceramics and his on-canvas appropriation of pop and cult iconography, his is a transformative art. Working with paints, screen prints, photographs and decals, Chainsaw has developed a personal armoury of imagery and gestural approaches which are instantly recognisable yet seemingly open to
Chainsaw says he has no interest in perfection. He's far more passionate about the ragged edges, the uneven surface and the traces of previous mistakes. All of which combine to provide the volatile seedbed of his works. At the heart of all his art – be it ceramic, canvas or beyond – is a painstaking process of layering.
Death always looms large in Chainsaw's works. And yet – despite the sombre nature of much of the source material – his work frequently strikes a playful note, managing to effortlessly imbue his pieces with a strong sense of energy and light. Chainsaw cites the notorious beat generation author William S. Burroughs as his ‘ghost muse'. Burroughs is an artist who emerged from the counter culture to assume a totemic presence within the mainstream. Like Salvador Dali, The Ramones or Frida Kahlo, Burroughs' visual image is recognised even by those unacquainted with his artistic output. The US experimental author has long been a touchstone for Chainsaw, but not just as a poster boy for those who prefer their artists spattered with the markings of the outlaw. Rather, Chainsaw grapples with some of the deeper themes running through Burroughs' work. Ideas such as art being a magickal tool and an instrument of change, or notions of death and decay having their own special beauty.
Like Burroughs' oeuvre, Chainsaw's art represents a collision of the matter of fact and the fantastical, the elemental and the quotidian, the highbrow and the lowbrow.
Chainsaw's previous work has been exhibited in numerous highly regarded galleries such as the Saatchi
Gallery London and Fleetwood Gallery in San Francisco. He has had three solo shows in London,
including one at the infamous Horse Hospital, as well as taking part in numerous group shows. He has also designed an album sleeve for indie superstars, The Fall, as well as creating an exclusive fabric design for cutting-edge design company Charles of London. For many years he's also operated as a film critic and cultural commentator, writing for publications as diverse as Empire, Bizarre and Kerrang!
(Text by Graham Duff: Screenwriter, director and actor. Writer of Ideal, Hebburn, Nebulous, and Doctor Terrible’s House of Horrible)