Paul Harvey, founder of the Newcastle Stuckists, interviewed by David Willoughby of Newcastle magazine, The North Guide (March 2003).
DW: The Stuckists made their protest felt during the opening of the Baltic last year. How has your opinion of the place changed since then - and can you ever forsee a Stuckist exhibition at the Baltic?
PH: There's a lot of good things about The Baltic and I have some good friends who work there. Their current show (The Cobra One) I think has some very interesting parrallels with the idea of Stuckism, and who knows, perhaps one day when barriers fall and we have a new enlightenment we may get the first floor or something. This obsession of the idea of it being an "Art Factory" is a tired and redundent one though. If Lou Reed and Bob Dylan were dropping in on a regular basis it might have some validity. Anthony Gormley isn't quite the same.
DW: Are you exhibiting new paintings at the Cluny or is it more of a best-of?
PH: I've got stuff at three other galleries at the same time in London, Birmingham and Leeds. I haven't got that many good paintings so I'm not completely pleased with what is going in to The Cluny show but a couple of them are my favourites so I can't complain. Three of the paintings are the last three I've produced.
DW: What do you do when not painting or being in Penetration, and where do you hang out in Newcastle?
PH: I tend to stay in quite a lot. Most of my spare time is spent painting really. I have to be forced to go out anywhere. I'll try to manage a hip hop night now and again but my girlfriend has to tell me all about it and why I should go. I've seen some amazing things because of that. I probably won't be going out anywhere until the Public Enemy gig. I spend a lot of time in London seeing exhibitions and I try to make the National gallery about once a month as it is the best museum in the world. I like Khans on Heaton Road too.
DW: It'd be interesting to know the truth about the level of infatuation you have for your subjects. Presumably when you paint an homage to Tara Palmer Tomkinson you really are making a statement about the vacuity of celebrity...
PH: I'm like everyone, I don't care but I read Heat every week. It's what's around. I have no great desire to meet any celebrities. If I was painting in 1520 I would paint St.Francis or The Virgin Mary. I don't care about the people I paint. Did Cezanne care about his bowl of fruit?
DW: Is there anyone you wouldn't paint? How about Billy Childish, now that he's officially a national treasure and has been subject to the full South Bank Show-style documentary treatment...
PH: I've recently painted Jane & Louise Wilson. Charles (founder Stuckist with Billy) thinks I should paint all the London Stuckists which I might do. I've never met Billy and I never saw the documentary. I always knew him as a musician and only realised he painted when I first got involved with the Stuckists.
DW: Sharon Lutchman's David Beckham-as-Christ painting was remarkably similar (in idea) to some of your own work. How did you react to that?
PH: I've seen the portrait. It's quite interesting that she has also drawn on late medieval imagery. I also think it has Stuckist qualities. I'm a believer in the collective subconscious; it's like I said before, it's what's around. But in the end I don't react to it at all. It's like asking Titian to comment on Michelangelo because he painted the same people. He wouldn't be bothered.
DW: And finally, who's next on the Paul Harvey wall of fame, or are you thinking about pursuing a different direction in style or subject matter?
PH: More Carole Lesley I think. I want to do some more reclining nudes but I can't decide whether to use life models or work from photos. As for the celebrities, I always make decisions based on the image and not the celebrity so it could be anybody. I have just received a commission to paint Meatloaf though so that might be the next one.
Willoughby, Staff Writer