Saturday, 2 June 2007


For those following this blog, you'll know that I have an apprehension toward the categorisation of art between columns like "low brow" and "high brow". To a certain extent, I can understand why people apply classifications of their choice to works they see. What I have difficulty absorbing is why an artist would choose to categorise themselves particularly when the label in question stifles.

The Stuckists are a movement founded by Billy Childish(who left in 2001) and Charles Thomson in 1999 promoting figurative painting and setting themselves in opposition to conceptual art . They have been critical of art institutions (The Tate in particular), individuals (Charles Saatchi in particular), and conceptual art in its entirety.

The name itself stems from a comment from Tracey Emin to Billy Childish when they were dating, "Your paintings are stuck. You are stuck! Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!" It was meant to be ironic, but there's more to it than that and though Emin falls into the conceptual category for which they stand against, her name certainly is dropped a lot.

The writing from the group is the most interesting, but browsing through the works of the ranks of artists involved, it quickly becomes apparent that liberation from the tyranny of art institutions hasn't spawned anything particularly new. On their website, Stuckism is described as "radical" while conceptual arts are labelled "unremarkable and boring" yet their collection of works is anything but radical and certainly populated with a good deal of the unremarkable and boring.

Though there are a few paintings that hint at potential, they feel stunted. It's hard not to think of Tracey Emin's comment on Billy Childish's work: "Your paintings are stuck. You are stuck! Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!"

Their critiques of various institutions are more interesting but contain nothing particularly new and are certainly not focused. Spending so much time attacking other artists is fruitless and distracts from some of their more pertinent critiques aimed at institutions and markets. Somehow, it feels a little like the Eunuch protesting against sex.

Overall, the "movement" is isolationist and could do with expending efforts on creating a positive and more open manifesto that leads by example rather than picketing museums. Or even better, all the artists involved will simply focus on their own work, write their own blog, and stop labelling/limiting themselves or others.

Stuckism Website
Stuckist Paintings
Charles Thomson paintings
Artistica interview - Charles Thomson
Stuckism Wiki
Charles Thomson Wiki
Billy Childish
Tracey Emin
Tate Online
The Saatchi Gallery

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