| Contents | Search
| Paintings | Manifestos
Future is a magazine edited by J.J. Charlesworth that appeared
in September 2004 and doesn't seem to have appeared since. It was
"dedicated to dynamic, edgy and entertaining critical writing
on contemporary art." It
ran a substantial illustrated feature on Stuckism, "Dead Painter's
Society", by Luke Heighton, a graduate of the Courtauld Institute
access Heighton's article, go to The
Future: on the right menu, click "tendencies" (if
you can decipher the font, that is), and on the next page, click on
the left "Dead Painters' Society". Update 2010: this
is now a dead link. The article can be found on the Internet
credentials might suggest that his text can be relied on, but it falls
short of the standard one might hope for, and some of the most glaring
errors are corrected below. A more reliable text on Stuckism by another
Courtauld graduate, Kirstie Gregory, is here.
TO "DEAD PAINTERS' SOCIETY"
Luke Heighton's text is shown in blue, and the response underneath
core members, Childish, Thomson and Sexton Ming formed the Medway
This should also include Bill Lewis. There were two other Medway Poets,
but these are not in the Stuckists
the object of much Stuckist bile
There has been Stuckist criticism of Emin's work - although also it
has been maintained that it is the best of Britart work - but not
personal attacks as this implies. Emin on the other hand has likened
Billy Childish to Charles Manson (in the Evening Standard,
which published a letter in response from Childish stating that he
had never encouraged his followers to commit mass murder, and if anyone
did so, it was entirely of their own free will).
Stuckists Punk Victorian – split as it is between the Walker and the
Lady Lever galleries – does give us the opportunity to see the increasingly
broad range of ‘Stuckist’ work available...
What then follows appears to be a review of this show. He then describes
Paul Harvey’s decorative, almost pre-Raphaelite
images of celebrities such as Madonna and Tupac Shakur
There was no painting of Tupac Shakur in the
Liverpool shows. Heighton continues his 'review' of the show:
equal interest will be a series of new films by Larry Dunstan and
Andy Bullock showing at the Lady Lever. Dunstan’s Contextually Yours,
which promises to feature teenagers from East London’s Hackney in
the act of juxtaposing original Shakespearean text with modern mobile
phone text language ‘played out to an [equally] modern trip-hop style
soundtrack also written by Bullock’
There were no films showing at the Lady Lever (nor in the Stuckist
show at the Walker). Contextually Yours is a film by Bullock
and not Dunstan.
sets up thinking (bad) and feeling (good) as
mutually exclusive opposites
This is a complete misinterpretation of what Stuckism proposes, as
is evidenced in point 3 of the first Stuckist manifesto (italics added):
"Stuckism proposes a model of art which is holistic. It is
a meeting of the conscious and unconscious, thought and emotion,
spiritual and material, private and public. Modernism is a school
of fragmentation — one aspect of art is isolated and exaggerated to
detriment of the whole."
this Heighton goes on to conclude:
Hence conceptualism, Postmodernism, and theory
in general are dismissed
Conceptualism is dismissed not because thinking is bad, but because
conceptualists do it badly. The critique of conceptualism is its lack
of concepts, and of Postmodernism that its concepts are erroneous.
It is obviously the case that Stuckism does not dismiss 'theory in
general' as it puts forward theoretical documents.
the relatively few occasions where Stuckist thinking does attempt
to raise itself above the merely subjective, the result is little
more than a half-arsed harangue. Nowhere is this more true than in
the pages of David Lee’s magazine The Jackdaw, and while it would
be wrong to call the magazine a Stuckist mouthpiece...
The Jackdaw is nothing whatsoever to do with Stuckism, of which it
is vehemently critical. If it is not 'a Stuckist mouthpiece', then
there is no reason to bring it into this essay. Heighton makes an
observation which is only applicable to The Jackdaw:
To whit, despite deciding over a year ago not
to mention Charles Saatchi again in its pages, hardly a month goes
by without at least a page dedicated him
He then blurs the distinction between Stuckists
and The Jackdaw, criticising the latter in the first part of the following
passage and moving without distinction back to the Stuckists again:
The sniping, juvenile, bitter and rather hopeless
tone in which such criticisms are voiced does nothing to disabuse
the public of the view that the contemporary art world is entirely
populated by the very same self-serving hacks and their hack-hags
(artists) they had always assumed it was. Yet such strategies do little
to worry an establishment confident that – one way or another – it
has all the bases covered, all the more so since the Stuckists so
desperately want to get their props from the very same institutions
they rail against.
describes the Stuckists Turner Prize demos at Tate Britain with
a cuckold in a clown suit trying hopelessly
to get the attention of the same ex-lover he professes to despise
There are no names mentioned but the obvious reference is to Billy
Childish (cuckold) and Tracey Emin (ex-lover). Apart from the fact
that Emin's complaint was that she was the cuckoldess, there is the
fact that Childish has never taken part in any Turner demos, with
or without a clown suit. Gastroenteritis prevented his presence at
the first one in 2000 and he left the group before the 2001 demo.
states about the effect of these demos:
The result, unsurprisingly, is precisely the
kind of public non-participation the Stuckists pretend to deplore.
This is an observation on a par with the non-existent films in the
Lady Lever Gallery. A remarkable feature of the Tate demos is the
amount of public participation, with large numbers of visitors (including
paying visitors to the Turner Prize) voicing their support over five
years. In fact there have only been three people who have voiced opposition
- a student on a conceptual art course, a gallery owner and the chairman
of the Tate trustees. Some members of the public have joined the Stuckists
picket line and held placards; many have photographed it, or been
photographed beside it; some have presented hot drinks or offered
donations - one elderly gentleman insisted that a ten pound note should
be accepted. Many have taken the proffered leaflets and some have
come back to ask for more. This includes several of the invited guests
to the prize ceremony.
for an artist or group of artists to content themselves with their
outsider status, muttering something about ‘timelessness’, ‘endurance’
and ‘not selling out’, is not only unproductive, it is boring.
This is another false attribution. The Stuckist stance has always
been to position itself as the mainstream. Outsider status is by default,
not intention. There is no reference to 'timlessness' anywhere on
the Stuckist web site. The only comment about 'selling out' is made
by The Independent (here),
apart from a facetious comment by Ella Guru about her starting to
paint "ducks, geese and pelicans". The only mention of 'endurance'
is Wolf Howard's painting of Ernest Shackleton's ship of that name
during the 1914 Antarctic expedition.
The criticism heaped by her former colleagues upon Stella Vine, Thomson’s
ex-wife and former Stuckist favourite labelled a ‘brainless, rotten
painter’ who would do anything for publicity, reeks of petty egotism
and sour grapes.
"brainless rotten painter" was made by David Lee in the
Jackdaw and is nothing whatsoever to do with Stuckists (see The Guardian
14 July 2004 here).
The comments by her ex-husband Charles Thomson on the Stuckist web
"Stella's work - which I should point out I admire..."
"I'm really pleased that's she's got this success and hope it
continues for her."
The dispute was her refusal to acknowledge the presence of Stuckism
in her artistic development (here),
which is an entirely different matter.
a culture that privileges emotional authenticity over critical reflection,
the Stuckist[s]..... continue to deny
that Tracey had got there years ago.
has missed the point completely. It is not a denial of where Emin
had got to years ago, but her current lack of acknowledgement of what
she once called her "greatest influence (see here)
in getting there.
whole article and its points throughout are wide of the mark. He writes
about what he imagines Stuckism is, not what it actually is, and it
ends up being an excuse for him to exercise his theoretical inclinations
to the point of meaninglessness, as the following passage shows:
To be a Stuckist painter is to adopt a position remarkable
only for its strained adherence to a set of petty conceits. It is
to section off humanism in order that it might be defended, proscribed,
regulated through art, but never be channelled through, or offering
a challenge to it. The tacit objective behind this attitude (and it
is just an attitude) is nothing less than the denial of the human
subject as a site of open, continuing enquiry, forcing humanism’s
literal and figurative enclosure in an ‘authenticity’ proposed as
the logical endpoint of a highly subjective and disingenuous essentialism.
first sentence implies that, having produced a theory, Stuckist painters
are then all trying to put it into practice. In fact the artists have
been producing work for many years from an intuitive inclination,
before any manifestos were every written, and most artists disagree
with at least some of the points. They certainly feel no obligation
to follow any theory and are more likely to deliberately thwart one
if they feel it is imposed upon them, rather than strain to adhere
criticisms contradict themselves. If humanism is "regulated"
through art, then it is through this also "channelled" in
some form, and also, for that matter, in some way offered "a
challenge". If it is "proscribed" (which is not the
case), then that too is a form of "challenge".
ideas sound authoritative, but fail to take account of the facts,
which undermine them completely. He accuses the Stuckists of
the denial of the human subject as a site of open, continuing enquiry,
when the first "petty conceit" in the Stuckist manifesto
is, " By removing the mask of cleverness and admitting where
we are, the Stuckist allows him/herself uncensored expression",
which is exactly what he is advocating.
he writes doesn't make sense: it just sounds as though it does, because
he is using a level of language which relates to itself, rather than
anything of application to experience and observation. This is of
course endemic in much current art theoretical practice, and the inevitable
product of an art establishment concensus which has to find words
it can believe in in order to avoid a truth which it does not want
to face. It is is truly such writing, as evidenced by Heighton's essay,
that is the phenomenon remarkable only for its strained adherence
to a set of petty conceits
Email sent by Andy Bullock of the Stuckist Photographers to The
the future magazine.
The following is my letter of response to the article on the stuckists
punk victorian show at lady lever art gallery written by luke heighton
- feel free to publish if you want.
you have been found out. you obviously did NOT visit the lady lever
art gallery because the films you mentioned (and WRONGLY accredited
'Contextually Yours' to Larry Dunstan when in fact it was my work)
are not in the show at all!
For the record, that film was never intended as a 'stand alone' piece
of art as it was a commercial project that i was commissioned to make
for The National Youth Theatre for their 'Shakespeare in the Square'
event in Hoxton this summer and as such would NEVER feature as part
of any art exhibition that I was involved in.
never once mentioned the work that was ACTUALLY in the show at the
lady lever which obviously leads me to my aforementioned conclusion.
if you can tell me what Larry Dunstan and myself were showing there
I'll buy you lunch and you can convince me otherwise.
we, as artists are happy to accept any criticism that is thrown at
us. but we prefer the critic to have seen the show and got the facts
correct before they launch into a pseudo-intellectual tirade based
on...... not seeing the work.
please feel free to call anytime.
the future magazine editors - if you need further comment please get
in touch, all contact details below.
and try and employ critics that at least visit the shows and get their
facts straight in future - it could be embarassing for your magazine.