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VISUAL ARTS: Saying knickers to Sir Nicholas

Independent, The (London),  Sep 7, 2004  by Charlotte Cripps

ONE OF the best known Stuckist paintings is of Sir Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate Gallery, holding up an old pair of red knickers with two speech bubbles pondering the question, "Is it a genuine Emin pounds 10,000 or a worthless fake?"

The acrylic and oil on canvas painting "Sir Nicholas Serota Makes an Acquisitions Decision" (2000) was painted by the artist and Stuckist co- founder Charles Thomson, who with the movement (more than 80 groups worldwide) is against conceptual art. "My painting of Serota has become an icon of the Stuckist movement because it states our position in art," says Thomson with glee. "We are for new figurative painting and anti stale, old conceptual art."

It was in 1999 that Thomson formed the Stuckists with Billy Childish. He coined the phrase after hearing of Tracey Emin's insult to Childish, her former partner, that his work was "Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!" "This was once she was hanging out in Brit Art circles," says Thomson distastefully, who formed the group "to restore values of authenticity, content, meaning and communication in art".

The Stuckists are pro-active in their war against the artistic enemy. For the past four years they have dressed as clowns and protested outside the Tate Gallery against the Turner Prize. "Because we think the current art establishment is a circus" explains Thomson. In 2002, they even carried a coffin down to London's White Cube Gallery - with the words "The Death Of Conceptual Art" written on it. "It is laughable," mutters Thomson about the current state of affairs in the conceptual art world. "Turner Prize winning Martin Creed's light going on and off in the Tate Gallery has become a classic example for us of that genre."

This is the Stuckists first major show in a national gallery. Part of the Liverpool Biennial, there will be about 280 Stuckist paintings by 37 artists from all over the world shown in stark contrast alongside Britain's biggest painting competition, John Moores 23 exhibition of contemporary painting, also at The Walker Gallery, part of the National Museums Liverpool. "This is a landmark exhibition in the history of art in this country," says Thomson, who until now has shown Stuckist exhibitions in about 30 independent galleries. "As far as the art establishment is concerned we do not exist. Finally we are being taken seriously."

Highlights of the Stuckist exhibition will include Paul Harvey's graphic pop art paintings of Madonna and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Ella Guru's works - in the style of the Old Masters - featuring transvestites and men in beehive wigs, Philip Absolon's paintings of skeletons, and Joe Machine's Diana Dors with a machine gun.

"We use all different styles, but what we insist on is that the artist is honest about their experiences, themselves, their emotions - and that they paint a picture that is clear to understand. There is so much hype and pretentiousness that real values have been lost from what makes art worthwhile to bother with in the first place."

The Stuckists Punk Victorian, The Walker Gallery, Liverpool, 18 September to 20 February

Copyright 2004 Independent Newspapers UK Limited
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