Knowing me as you all do now, you might think I made up Stuckism, especially when I’m bemoaning creative blocks. I did not. It’s legit, though. See that turquoise circle down there on the lower right, sticking out beyond all those played-out Post-modernisms? It’s in the vanguard, but taking aim over its shoulder at Art’s 20th Century Pompous Bad Guys: “Against conceptualism, hedonism and the cult of the ego-artist,” proclaims the subhead on their Twenty Point Manifesto from 1999. I like Stuckism, it’s cheeky and makes more than a few savory points I can relate to. It may also have saved my artistic soul. So let’s cherry pick and see how the thoughts of some grumpy British painters apply to a philosophical American ceramicista.
First, know that Stuckism is a serious and a somewhat tongue-in-cheek movement, both artsy and political. They are “anti anti-art” so I think that makes them for actual art, and not just clever conceptualizations of it. It’s a return to real paintings and not competitive ready-mades (“i.e. dead sheep.”)
Not long ago I mentioned to fellow clay buddy Cynthia Siegel that I was having a bunch of trouble transitioning to personally meaningful new work and had the tantalizing thought, “Why don’t I just keep having awesome ideas and skip the actual making of them?” She chuckled and said I had just asked the question everyone in an MFA program asks at one time or another. Art, perhaps especially ceramic art, needs to be brought into form – that’s pretty much the whole point! – and to that degree I’m with Stuckism which remains happily stuck in very real execution and not sleights of ideation.
Venturing even further into that realm is Number Eleven of the Manifesto:
Post Modernism, in its adolescent attempt to ape the clever and witty in modern art, has shown itself to be lost in a cul-de-sac of idiocy. What was once a searching and provocative process (as Dadaism) has given way to trite cleverness for commercial exploitation. The Stuckist calls for an art that is alive with all aspects of human experience; dares to communicate its ideas in primeval pigment; and possibly experiences itself as not at all clever!
There is further Stuckist consternation with the “white wall gallery system,” with competitions and prizes, and with “games of novelty, shock and gimmicks,” but you get the idea. It might seem that their only raison d’etre is to be contra, but the pros are quite wonderful and found galore in their 2000 Remodernism Manifesto, “towards a new spirituality in art” and that’s where the juicy stuff is. Here are three I resonate with:
2. Remodernism is inclusive rather than exclusive and welcomes artists who endeavor to know themselves and find themselves through art processes that strive to connect and include, rather than alienate and exclude. Remodernism upholds the spiritual vision of the founding fathers of Modernism and respect their bravery and integrity in facing and depicting the travails of the human soul through a new art that was no longer subservient to a religious or political dogma and which sought to give voice to the gamut of the human psyche.
5. We don’t need more dull, boring, brainless destruction of convention, what we need is not new, but perennial. We need an art that integrates body and soul and recognises enduring and underlying principles which have sustained wisdom and insight throughout humanity’s history. This is the proper function of tradition.
7. Spirituality is the journey of the soul on earth. Its first principle is a declaration of intent to face the truth. Truth is what it is, regardless of what we want it to be. Being a spiritual artist means addressing unflinchingly our projections, good and bad, the attractive and the grotesque, our strengths as well as our delusions, in order to know ourselves and thereby our true relationship with others and our connection to the divine.
So, this Stuckist/Remodernist Movement actually spells some relief for me in tangible ways, even though I’m not much of a joiner. For one, in light of it, I find my creative juices enthusiastically and authentically awakening again. Spiritual and idiosyncratic art-making is what I set out to do and somehow in the past decade I see it was co-opted by the marketplace, competitions and prizes, and those white-walled galleries. I honestly think I got inadvertently wiped out trying to keep up with and at the same time resist Cleverness and Irony and all their witty Post-Modern cousins. Back to the studio with my original and very personal impulse folded into my soul and may it come out my hands whole and pure.
—Liz Crain, who heartily congratulates and thanks you if you’ve read this far. Art movement jargon can be a tough read, even for nerds who love it. She tried to keep it simple. That said, feel free to click on all the links for as much info and manifesto-reading as you can stand. If she has learned anything in her “Beastly Beauty” aesthetics class it’s that the search for a meaningful definition of Art is full of more questions than answers and is always open to someone giving it another shot, especially a personal one.