The Stuckist Movement – Medium or content?

By Alexis Hunter 2008

The Stuckist’s bone of contention is that the craft of painting is being ignored by such institutions as the Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery in London. I feel that it is not the medium so much which is being ignored; it is content that actually says something about the modern condition which is lacking from the art that is favored by London’s Art Cabal.

Some museums, like the Tate, choose artists that deal with regurgitated life, rehashed advertising, ‘found objects’ and what is used in marketing terms is “second - level appropriation”, as the first level, “The  Creatives”, are thought not digestible enough for the public. This ‘art of appropriation’ is only favored because it is defined by curator-ship -   if curators say it is art, it becomes so – hence the curators influence becomes more and more powerful.  Curators choose mediums that  have no ‘quality  standards  bar’; any art installation, or video still looks like itself, the distancing quality that the medium has absorbs any criticism, whereas there is a lot of difference between a bad and a good painting.

Sadly I remember early video art from Darcy Lange or Tina Keane that was both beautifully filmed and also struggled with bringing meaning through the medium of movement and the artist’s passionate involvement with society. I guess it is the political which is so unfashionable, but it really bought a depth and sincerity to 1970s art works - in all mediums. I that miss that insight in shows of contemporary art in Musums in London. It has been up to private galleries like Alison Jacques Gallery, Lazarides Gallery and THE AQUARIUM L-13 to show work with zip. The exhibition traveling the country now, 'No Such Thing as Society' chosen by David Hurn, the Magnum photographer, curatored by David Alan Mellor and with photography by Martin Parr and Christine Voge among others cannot get a venue in London- even though it has been bought about by Hayward Gallery Travelling. As it is about the terrible recession in the 1970s and the class divide it will be next shown in the Museum of Warsaw, not in London. So it is not about the medium, photography, it is the realistic and damning content which will not be shown in this Capital of Greed and “What-Ever” land.

That is why the Contemporary Art World is so mediocre; it is the lack of real content in the work shown. The Stuckist Movement has included artists who deal with real life and personal experience with heartfelt imagination. For instance painting what it is like to be on social assistance for so many years that  you start to imagine skeletons ‘signing on’(Philip Absolon), painting  the memory of  young French sailors fornicating in the streets of Chatham (Joe Machine),  painting the reality of societies’ trap for young lovers  – a hangman’s noose ready (Billy Childish), painting a celebrity bleeding from the eyes with internalised pain (Stella Vine), painting  the rivers of life and death that wait for us all (Elsa Dax), painting  the transsexuality of display (Ella Guru).  That these artists use paint, I think, is of secondary importance to the fact that they are voicing the pain and glory of what it is really like today to be alive in this England today.

But you will not see this work in the Turner Prize.                  ©Alexis Hunter London 2008


All Photographs below taken by Alexis Hunter during the Turner Prize Demo at Tate Britain September 2008



Stuckist Demonstration at Tate Britain 2008. Photo: Alexis Hunter


Painter Philip Absolon at the Stuckist Demo., Tate Gallery, photo Alexis Hunter

Painter Elsa Dax outside Tate Gallery, photo Alexis Hunter

Painter Elsa Dax pregnant and protesting, photo Alexis Hunter


Mr Thomson and Mr Katz with Mr Friend in background, photo Alexis Hunter


Stuckist painters  at demo Elsa and Ruth, photo Alexis Hunter

Read article of Charles Thomson's International protest for Artistic Freedom here

The web site of the International Stuckist Movement