Artist Edgeworth Johnstone on his collaborations with Billy Childish

The Muswell Hill painter Edgeworth Johnstone has just launched his exhibition of Heckel’s Horse Jr paintings

Since winter 2013, the Medway painter and punk rocker Billy Childish and myself have been collaborating on a painting partnership we’ve titled ‘Heckel’s Horse’. Working in Billy’s studio at Chatham’s historic dockyard in Kent, as Heckel’s Horse, we have made over 150 oil paintings to date, mostly on six foot Belgian linen canvases. In most cases, I will start a painting that Billy then finishes. Occasionally we work simultaneously, blending each other’s styles into a single finished piece.

Over the last two years, I have begun making my own versions of Heckel’s Horse paintings under the alias ‘Heckel’s Horse Jr’ (being the younger of the partnership), which are being exhibited publicly for the first time at Highgate Gallery at the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution. From my home studio in Muswell Hill, I revisit the paintings I and Billy have made together, creating a fresh body of work I hope will introduce more viewers not only to my art, but also to the Stuckists manifesto I relate much of my painting to.

Stuckism is an art group founded in 1999 by East Finchley painter and poet Charles Thomson and Billy, named after an insult by Billy’s then girlfriend Tracey Emin that he and his paintings were: “Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!” It was Charles’ introduction of Billy to my work that the Heckel’s Horse collaboration began.

Five of my drawings were exhibited at Exhibition #2 in the Tate Modern in May 2010. Our collaboration paintings were exhibited in Pushkin House, London, in October 2014. A Heckel’s Horse Jr painting was auctioned at Christie’s
London at their King Street location, for the charity Arms Around The Child in November 2022. My work is inspired by early twentieth century expressionism and contemporary naive art.

The main reason, initially, for making the Heckel’s Horse Jr series was the need I felt to promote Heckel’s Horse. Billy and I have been wanting to get Heckel’s Horse off the ground since not long after we started painting them, but, so far, publishing has been kept very limited. However, as I started making the Heckel’s Horse Jr paintings they took on a life of their own and I now wonder why it took me nearly a decade to get started on them. Both Heckel’s Horse Jr and Stuckism have strong Haringey connections, specifically to Muswell Hill and are examples of like minded artists organically crossing paths and collaborating to make something none of us could have foreseen or achieved independently.

‘Heckel’s Horse Jr’ runs from Friday, 8th–Thursday, 21st March.

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