Stuckism Silver Anniversary
A big homage continuing
No novelty. No shock. No gimmick. I’m a Stuckist and you’ll have to deal. Edgeworth Johnstone wrote recently that Stuckism needs to grow up. Perhaps it was a gibe to art-makers who join a club and begin to one-up other art-makers with words and thoughts like, “in order to be a this, you must be that…”, which is anti-Stuckism because I say so. The painting above is not abstract, yet if it was (as if any painting ever could be), then I’d say, “You’re blind! Because just look! It’s a winged sufferer circling a corpse”. You don’t see it? Then go Stuckist some place else. I’m doing it here, and you’re not my guru. You can’t ever one up me. I start at your stopping point. You go ahead and fit into the mold. I will break from mine on good days, but sit stock-still to practice those drab ones. You can be great, and I’ll always be greater. And one thing for certain…
I will never be greater than myself.
So 25 years gone by. Stuckism is the only international art movement on earth worth talking about because there are millions of us. About a couple thousand identify their art as “Stuckist”, and the other 3,497,325 painters are lying to themselves to maintain the hope of established gallery or Artnews representation. After reading the manifesto, any serious painter not working for the Pope, or stuffing a corpse sheep’s head with microplastics, will make immediate connection to its truisms. A huge relief from the cognitive dissonance that bangs in the brains of determined artists. Before and after the advent of Stuckism in 1999, the gatekeepers dangled avarice keys to the kingdom (acceptance, recognition and money among mankind), and all the unStuckists of the world pined for the big break—club admission, millionaire notice, a father saying “job well done son”.
And it never came because art moving in that direction is dread. The business of art is dread. Success by means of what others think is the way, is dread. Pride is the other side of dread. There are 167 roads leading to hell on earth, and one of them is a painting made to fit into the worldview of another person’s dread.
Of course not. I’m an enigma, a hack writer, and a Stuckist.
One day in 2013, my friend Dan turned me on to a video of a Stuckist exhibition in London. Then Google got me to the manifesto and I experienced instant karma-raderie with humans being artists. If you’re a serious painter, musician, sculptor or cheesemaker, then you cannot not be a Stuckist. In the world of art making, one might think that because Stuckism casts such a wide net, that it has got the last word. Not true. The future will introduce an uninterested public to many new styles of painting. And new movements too. Like the Lithiumists who paint pink and turquoise lanscapes with pigments stolen from the birthright of Bolivian babies. Or the New Futurists who start at the dark side of chirascuro and end there. Still, at the base of any stylistic movement, past, present or future, there has and will always be Stuckism, whether defined or not.
Stuckism’s 25th anniversary. So much to look forward to and write about. In March, Rose and I will be attending Edgeworth Johnstone’s opening at the Highgate Gallery in London. I hope to meet with other British Stuckists, talk painting over a pint or two, and be almost sober during the soundcheck (see video below).
Now watch Edgeworth and Emma go all out Stuckism on Friday night at the Beehive in London. Please look at his shirt!
My cup runneth over of Stuckist juice.
When a Stuckist Trades, Does a Tree Fall in the Woods?
In March 2015, via Facebook, I contacted a painter living in Moscow to ask if he would sell me one of his paintings. His name is Alexey Stepanov and I find his work to be masterful. I like it mostly, I guess, because it is good, very good, and isn’t mine. I wanted to save the money up by September for an October birthday present to give to my wife. This was a big step for me. I usually keep to my own self in matters of discomfiting. I expected a big Russian, “Ha! You want me to sell my work on American layaway? Go jump in the Moskva!”
Instead, he suggested we trade. I don’t know Russian. His English is bad, and the Internet translator he connects to, translates my messages into nonsense. For example, “Dear Alexey, I painting like a dog eat with my wife a moon the size pickling”.
He agreed to sending me the painting I desired, Lovers, an 8 × 10 inch, to keep shipping costs low. And I picked out a small triptych for him. When he found out I was sending three, he threw another one of his into the bargain. The Red Pipe, a landscape that reminds me of the town I live in.
Magic feeling. His suggesting this trade, the follow through, the kindness, the reverence, meant more to the well being of my soul than if some billion-millionaire sent Triscuit® suits to my door to buy up the entire basement archive.
A painter admiring the work of another painter. Fuel to continue.
While connected with Alexey and other Russian painters on Facebook and also the popular Russian social networking site VK, I began to encounter snippets of their painting lives. Alexey would post pictures of his makeshift apartment shows and painting get-togethers. He and others would paint a model for the night and finish with conversation and a glass of wine. I was so envious and excited about their camaraderie. I nosed in on their business as often as I could, and dreamed a better life for the visual arts here in the United States.
Then he took the triptych I sent him and hung it in the woods for a late summer forest exhibition. Oh, too much! I was smitten!
Not long after, Alexey invited me to show in a Moscow pancake house on All Hallow’s Eve.
I wrote to all and sundry:
“Ha! Take that ubiquitous, flowing artist resumes of avarice! Thanks to Alexey Stepanov of Moscow, Russia, I am an international painter. Also, a thank you to Russia whose mothers have raised boys and girls to discover the art of dreaming. Who would guess that painters are the same everywhere, true painters, the non-misanthropic ones, who aren’t finished yet nurturing their humanity.
Some points from the Stuckism Manifesto:
Stuckism is the quest for authenticity. By removing the mask of cleverness and admitting where we are, the Stuckist allows him/herself uncensored expression.
It is the most difficult task of all. The art crazy old man knows.
The Stuckist is not mesmerized by the glittering prizes, but is wholeheartedly engaged in the process of painting. Success to the Stuckist is to get out of bed in the morning and paint.
Tell that to slave master billionaire art collectors Paul Allen and David Geffen, men of the abstract wealth — a watered-down, water-logged, soaked socks, silly concept of abstract wealth.
The ego-artist’s constant striving for public recognition results in a constant fear of failure. The Stuckist risks failure willfully and mindfully by daring to transmute his/her ideas through the realms of painting. Whereas the ego-artist’s fear of failure inevitably brings about an underlying self-loathing, the failures that the Stuckist encounters engage him/her in a deepening process which leads to the understanding of the futility of all striving. The Stuckist doesn’t strive — which is to avoid who and where you are — the Stuckist engages with the moment.
I am still caught up in the romantic’s dream. It comes and goes. I apply to art houses, magazines, Internet blogs to show work with the hopes that my ship will come in. Granted it’s a poverty canoe like Picasso’s. He wanted to be rich to live like a pauper. I want to sell paintings in order to live like a pauper in a garret on a Grecian island, always with more paint and whole foods. At times the path may appear to be hyper vanity, but when I reach deeper, it is understood that the queries, exposure, sometimes outright begging is just the ancient human quest for authenticity unto the clan.
It is the Stuckist’s duty to explore his/her neurosis and innocence through the making of paintings and displaying them in public, thereby enriching society by giving shared form to individual experience and an individual form to shared experience.
We are mere fools an ocean apart. The woods in Russia where 21st century painters meet. No money here. No good things for you to see, New York City.
Selection of two week’s paintings and a rented van to transport big ones to my uninsured, flood-prone basement studio of woe light:
Thanks for the visit. Stay-tuned for more Stuckism!