by Mark Vallen - January. 2003.
Hirst's Sheep in formaldehyde.
some point in the maelstrom of the late 20th century,
a sea change took place in the West. Everything unraveled
and came undone. People had grown accustomed to the nuclear
sword of Damocles perpetually hanging over their heads and
so yawned in the face of mass murder. Souls were lost in
the glut of supermarket isles and mass media kept all endlessly
distracted with a steady diet of trivia. Art was buried
under a torrent of cheap, mass produced images.
that great driving force in creative and intellectual
circles since the late 1800's, was dead... or so it was
said. Enter the era of the so-called Postmodern, where
there is no truth, and God, reason, and man fails us.
Where the notion of a better world is impossible since
humans are themselves beyond perfectibility. Where equality,
liberation, and spirituality are merely unnatural intellectual
constructs, and where a dead sheep in a vat of formaldehyde
is considered art. By
the late 1970's painting was proclaimed dead. Prestigious
museums and galleries became obsessed with "conceptual"
or "postmodern" works, and critics fostered the notion
that anything could be art... a pile of rocks, a building
wrapped in a tarp, even a jar filled with excrement. Reputable
art journals soon contained little if anything even remotely
resembling figurative realism. Art schools ceased teaching
painting and drawing altogether. Suddenly disciplines
which had been with humanity since the dawn of civilization
were relegated to the realm of the amateur Sunday hobbyist.
painting by Stuckist artist,
reaction to this, Stuckism
was founded a few years ago in England by figurative painters
who were sick of the tyranny of postmodern art. The name
Stuckist was based on an insult. A prize winning
conceptual artist hurled an insult at a realist painter,
saying: "You're stuck! Stuck, stuck, stuck!" Thus
a movement was born. Stuckists were outraged that the
United Kingdom's highest honor for artistic achievement,
the vaunted Turner Prize, was being handed out to people
who didn't even paint (the irony being that JMW Turner,
the artist after which the prize was named, was one of
England's greatest painters). Stuckistas released a manifesto
that insolently proclaimed...
"Those who do not paint are not artists!"
rhetoric of revolutionaries can often sound inflammatory
and unreasonable, but the Stuckists do have a point. When
the 2002 Turner Prize of $40,000 was awarded to Keith
Tyson for having created a large black monolithic
block filled with discarded computers, not a single
Painter had been considered as a possible recipient
of the prize. Fiona
Banner, Turner Prize finalist for 2002, entered
a billboard emblazoned with pornographic text. Co-finalist,
Liam Gillick, offered a ceiling constructed of
multicolored plastic. Previous prize winning entries included
a dead sheep in formaldehyde by Damian
Hirst, a portrait of the Virgin Mary "painted"
with elephant dung by Chris Ofili,
and a white room with a single light bulb that blinked
on and off by Martin Creed.
Past finalist Tracy Emin
entered an unmade bed soiled with condoms and tampons.
Emin's unmade bed soiled with
condoms & tampons.
major blow to the fortress-like walls of the postmodern
art establishment was delivered in December of 2002 just
prior to the annual Turner Prize awards, when U.K. Culture
Minister, Kim Howells ignited
a firestorm of argument over exactly what art should be
in the present period. Dr Howells, publicly upset over the
quality of entries for the 2002 Turner Prize, stated flatly,
"If this is the best British artists can produce then
British art is lost. It is cold, mechanical, conceptual
went on to encourage new artists to oppose the "new
orthodoxy... the art establishment is a very small elite
which believes it has a monopoly of wisdom when it comes
calls for the reclamation of the perennial... the reestablishment
of beauty, spirituality, and yes, artistic skill. It insists
that painting is relevant in today's society, and so works
to restore it to a central position in the world of art.
Gillick's ceiling made of plastic.
Banner's pornographic billboard... blah, blah, blah.
praise the likes of Vincent Van Gogh
and the German Expressionists...
but turn their backs on the formalism of academic art. The
Stuckist credo is "against the pretensions of conceptual
art" and for "paintings with ideas."
Stuckists reject the notion that anything can be art. "If
that is so then anything can be food." Imagine
if you will, being served a set of golf clubs at your dining
room table... or getting a plate of nuts and bolts at a
restaurant... and then being told that it's the very finest
in gourmet cuisine.
a working artist with a firm commitment to figurative
realism, I'm more than a little sympathetic to the Stuckist
movement, but I hesitate to refer to myself as an adherent.
famous American artist, Ben Shahn
once said, "I believe that if it were left to artists
to choose their own labels, most would choose none."
Moreover, I believe that artists must have the freedom
to create whatever they wish, in whatever way they wish.
I've always opposed the self appointed arbiters of "good
taste" and "morality" who, when confronted with something
they can't or won't understand, cry "That's not art!"
it would be a mistake to associate the Stuckists with
the assorted reactionaries who have always attempted to
define, censor, or control art. Stuckists do not call
for the suppression of artistic expression, quite the
contrary... they demand it's expansion. Stuckists
don't seek a simple return to the past, nor do they advocate
that artists pander to the low brow tastes of the majority.
is a rather awkward name for an art movement, one that
implies something retrograde and backwards. It was after
all meant as an insult, but then so were the names of
Fauvism and Primitivism,
names which have come to represent bonifide schools of
art. I prefer the term Stuckists use to describe their
philosophy insists that art must be more than an intellectual
exercise appreciated only by the art establishment.
Re-modernists strive for recognizable images created with
passion and clarity of content. They understand that art
has become meaningless and incomprehensible folly to most
people, and when a society gives up on art it sinks into
barbarism. If you agree with this opinion...
then perhaps you are also STUCK.
read more about the Stuckist International,
visit their official website, at: www.stuckism.com
Painting by Stuckist
artist, Billy Childish.
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