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This is adapted from an email exchange with Terry Harknett, curator of a Stuckist show at The Fringe, New Jersey. She supplied the questions. The rest of the text represents my own interpretation of Stuckism. - Charles Thomson, Co-founder, The Stuckists
13 March 2002

Stuckism is constituted as an international network of independent Stuckist groups. These have all, to date, started with my endorsement, but on the basis that each one is independent, self-directed and has the right to their own interpretation of Stuckism. No one has ever been expected to agree with all the points in the Stuckist manifesto - including the people who wrote it - but essentially to identify with the spirit of what is said.

Stuckist groups could theoretically just announce themselves without any reference to the origin of Stuckism. That hasn't happened as yet, but if it did and people involved were true to the essence, that would be fine. In fact one artist did announce a show of Stuckist paintings unilaterally. However, someone unilaterally declaring themselves a Stuckist/Stuckist group who was blatantly inconsistent with its ethos would certainly be approached and asked to desist, and, if they didn't, would not be promoted by me at any rate. An example of this might be someone who exhibits a potato in a gallery and seriously calls it art.

Since we opened up access to others and included them in our shows (from March 2000 with 'The Resignation of Sir Nicholas Serota' show at Gallery 108), our own public presentation has not been under our total control anyway. Some paintings have arrived from groups and been exhibited to represent those groups, without us knowing in advance what was going to be sent. The result has generally been satisfactory.

So within certain parameters - mainly figurative painting - there is a lot of latitude. Having said that, I have a strong response as to what is desirable within those parameters. Those are the people whose work is most plentifully represented and most strongly promoted, and the original members of the group fall in this category.

I recently turned down someone who wanted to affiliate with us, because they were a standard commercial illustrator. The work was professional and attractive enough in its own field, but merely slick and superficial in content and emotion.

I certainly don't want Stuckism to be associated with 'modern traditional' academic painting of portraits and landscapes, a lot of which seems to insist on a bastardised Impressionism as the defining standard. However, artists in that school, with their insistence on modelling, tonal values and Renaissance drawing systems, usually regard Stuckist shows with horror as the worst kind of incompetent amateurism. I feel they would react to a van Gogh in exactly the same way - if they didn't know it was 'a van Gogh', that is..

How far does Stuckism go in the sense of painting as "purity"?

What the hell is that? It's not a word we've ever used, so I don't know how it is being applied here. I want to exhibit 'pure' painting in the physical sense, and usually find collage elements a disappointment and cop-out, but there are exceptions.

What is Stuckism's relationship with pop art?

That depends on what you mean by pop art. If it's Warhol, then he is, as far as I am concerned, the enemy with a vengeance, being the man who pioneered celebrity status over artistic integrity, superficiality over content, cynicism over meaning, and negation over emotion.

Some Stuckist artists work in the field of what might be called pop art, but I see that as the most effective vehicle for what they want to express, and primarily Stuckist art rather than pop art.

I am probably the member of our group who is most seen in the category of pop art. I sometimes use the label as a shorthand - that my work "could be seen as pop art" - rather than because I see it that way. I would see it as a line of development from Japanese woodblock prints, van Gogh and German Expressionism. I don't have much time for Lichtenstein because of his mechanical effacement of expression. Likewise with Craig-Martin's clip art.

Pop art as the mere repetition of commercial imagery is the antithesis of Stuckism. Pop art as the use of popularly-accessible stylistic approach for original expression is very compatible with Stuckism's values of accessibility, content and communication.

People ask why the rigidity (not getting basic idea of what the manifesto actually is perhaps)?

That is right - not getting the basic idea. It is also very effective in getting up people's noses, particularly peope who pride themselves that they are open to everything - we have succeeded in finding the thing they are not open to. We also understand a deeper paradox that limitation gives freedom and vice versa. We object to the oppression of 'everything is art'.

It is a universal spiritual law that we only find our true selves, our centre, through the balance of opposites (Buddhist Middle Way, Kabbalistic central pillar, the Tao etc). Children need defined boundaries for healthy development (they also need support, nurture and space for play). Adults, society and art are the same. We are bringing back 'the baby that has been thrown out with the bath water'.

What is misperceived via the current distorted value system as rigidity, is actually support, structure, self-respect, humility and focus.

Do you see Stuckism growing or changing?

Absolutely. It is only at its initial stage at the moment. I confidently see it as the most important artistic movement since the birth of modern art with Impressionism. It is the only movement that gives us a modern art worth having (I am talking about the evolution of visual art in the 'Fine Art' tradition here, not e.g. cinema). That is because art is based on ideas and values. Stuckism is the only movement to have a sound comprehensive theoretical basis for its expression. Other movements in the modern era are blatantly cock-eyed. They may have grasped some profound issues, but have done so by completing disregarding other essential ones.

E.g. Surrealism realised the importance of the unconscious and the irrational, but is a lost cause, because those factors only have any significance when they are integrated consciously with the mundane.

I would actually go further with the status of Stuckism (or to be accurate Remodernism which emerged from it), that it is on a level with the Renaissance, which was the last time in Western culture that a complete world view system was evolved.

The medieval system was God-centered and placed the spiritual above the material. The Renaissance was man-centered and placed the material above the spiritual. Remodernism is the integration of these. It recognises the equal importance of God and man, spiritual and material, and their necessary mutual dependence.

Is Stuckism a cog in the machine of Remodernism?

I guess it is - the vanguard that charges into the breach. I think we are at an equivalent stage to the early Renaissance and are the primitives.


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