“Stuckists are pro-contemporary figurative painting with ideas and anti-conceptual art, mainly because of its lack of concepts. Stuckists have regularly demonstrated dressed as clowns against the Turner Prize. Several Stuckist Manifestos have been issued. One of them Remodernism inaugurates a renewal of spiritual values for art, culture and society to replace the emptiness of current Postmodernism.”[i]
“…a radical and controversial art group that was co-founded in 1999 by Charles Thomson and Billy Childish (who left in 2001) along with eleven other artists. The name was derived by Thomson from an insult to Childish from his ex-girlfriend, Brit artist Tracey Emin, who had told him that his art was ‘Stuck’.”[ii]
I’ve been meaning to write about the Stuckists for a while now, not because I have any great love or interest for them but on the contrary, I’ve been trying to work out exactly what their objection to contemporary art is. As described above, they seem to be a group who feel very strongly about a type of fashionable art that falls into the terrains of postmodernism. On the other hand they seem to promote and advocate ‘figurative paintings with ideas.’
Art, I’ve come to realise more and more is not only used as a platform to sell personal views but is more than often used to promote much larger group and communal standpoints. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. But an art statement to be worth our attention has to make a potent and important point. Unfortunately, the Stuckists do not seem to be making that impact anymore, if ever they did. Though to be fair, they must’ve made a little impact, after all here I am writing about them. But I wonder if I am writing about them because it’s about the most exciting protest we’ve seen against conceptual art and is simply put, a talking point, rather than being a real philosophy that makes its objection so clear and definite that it becomes a point of critical interest. Most critics, unfortunately, if they’re not laughing at them through their own satirisation of the group, take very little notice of the Stuckists, perhaps considering themselves too above them.
Having said this, the original ideas, which did arise from a place of protest, made sense. Talking about The London Stuckist Centre, (now closed), Charles Thomson is reported to say:
“The space was designed to fulfill the belief stated in our manifesto that the best space for art is not a white wall gallery but the more human space of a home (or a musty museum). The main space was my living room. It had sofas and normal home lighting, not gallery spotlights, which create a separation between the art and the viewer. People could come in, sit down, maybe have a cup of tea and experience the art as part of their environment, if they wanted to. The upstairs walls were either brick or painted maroon, and the downstairs a deep green. It was a small oasis in the greyness of the outside environment…”[iii]
In some ways, it is true to say that the Stuckists are pretty much over now, their statements long-buried and gone. Except, for their personal resonance, which can be spotted here and there, in and around the Kentish regions of Rochester and the Medway towns, where every now and then, you’ll meet the founders, some of the members, dressed in their satiric artistic garbs, beards and moustaches, hats, walking sticks, tweed, leather, braces, waking their poetic walks, painting their paintings, satirising their images, remarking on the rubbish displayed all over the contemporary art world…a commentary on what could have been, should have been, but never was.