Billy Connolly - Born On A Rainy Day - 2020

BILLY CONNOLLY

It was on a rainy day in 2007 that Billy Connolly first put pen to paper. Taking refuge from the grey drizzle of Montreal, Canada, the veteran comedian entered an art shop with a twinkling curiosity and left with an armful of supplies and the urge to create. Back in his hotel room, his felt-tips and sketchbook formed a portal for his imagination, and over the next five years his drawings evolved into his debut fine art collection, Born On A Rainy Day . Upon its original release in 2012, the body of work was lauded for its humorous surrealism. Fellow star Vic Reeves, who attended its unveiling at Halcyon Gallery in Mayfair, revealed: “If I look at a painting and it makes me smile or makes me sad, then it’s achieved the effect it should have. I can smile at most of these.” Marking the fifth release from the series, the 2020 collection comprises six limited edition graphics, two boutique time- limited prints – one to commemorate Billy’s appearance in London, and the other in Glasgow – and marks the very first time that Billy’s art has been translated into sculpture. Just like his idiosyncratic, no-holds-barred comedy, each of the artworks reflects a refreshing honesty from the former welder, who last year released his latest book,  Tall Tales and Wee Stories , which brings together Billy's incredible storytelling, featuring famous routines like 'The Last Supper' and 'Incontinence Pants'. Black-and-white lines, Escher-esque surrealism and an increased use of colour are underpinned by a sense of liberation and a keen application of observational humour.

His process mirrors that of the Surrealist Automatism movement, whereby the artist allows their hand to move randomly across the paper or canvas without a specific intent. While eagle-eyed viewers may try to spot references to his personal life, the dreamlike quality of his art is closer to the work of Salvador Dalí than an autobiography. Others have likened Billy’s sketches to the cave paintings of the Aurignacian period (40,000-25,000 BC), which were characterised by their linear, one-dimensional approach. Charmingly simplistic, his faceless figures possess an extraordinary self-awareness and humanity. Devoid of emotion or expression, their anonymity opens them up to individual interpretation, creating a unique bond with the viewer. An admirer of artists like René Magritte and David Hockney, Billy has made an impact on the art world beyond his own creations. In 2017, the CBE recipient was immortalised in three 50ft murals in his hometown of Glasgow to celebrate his 75th birthday. His infamous ‘banana boots’ were later displayed at the People’s Palace, and in 2019 his art was projected onto MacLellan’s Castle to mark World Parkinson’s Day. For a man who has spent his life on stage, art – much like that Montreal art shop on a rainy day – is a welcome refuge. Billy adds: “My art is pure and unjudged; I am creating it for myself. It is personal and private, whereas with a film, comedy show or music, you expect people to be critiquing, watching, assessing. Art is different, it liberates you.”

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