Home | Introduction | Contents | Search | Paintings | Manifestos | Essays | Videos | Enquiries


The 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 of Art.

To 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 Archive.

Heighton's 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.

Luke Heighton's text is shown in blue, and the response underneath in black.

[Stuckism's] core members, Childish, Thomson and Sexton Ming formed the Medway Poets
This should also include Bill Lewis. There were two other Medway Poets, but these are not in the Stuckists

[Emin] 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).

The 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:
Of 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.

[Stuckism] 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."

From 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.

...on 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.

He 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.

Heighton 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.

Yet 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.
The criticism "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 site (here) are :
"Stella's work - which I should point out I admire..."
and (here):
"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.

In a culture that privileges emotional authenticity over critical reflection, the Stuckist[s]..... continue to deny that Tracey had got there years ago.
Again Heighton 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.

The 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.

The 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 to it.

His 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".

His 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.

What 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 Future magazine

to 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.

dear luke,
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.

you 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.

yours, andy b

ps the future magazine editors - if you need further comment please get in touch, all contact details below.

pps 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.

back to top