< art space talk >
by Brian Sherwin, originally published in myartspace
I recently interviewed Terry Marks, a narrative painter from New York, one of the US artists in the landmark show The Stuckists Punk Victorian at the Walker Art Gallery during the 2004 Liverpool Biennial.
Her surrealistic images reveal her prowess for story-telling with visual art. The expressive quality of her work symbolizes the realm of our collective dreams. A place where anything can happen (and most likely does.)
Q Can you tell our blog readers about Stuckism? Who founded it, why, and how did you get involved with the movement?
A Stuckism is a controversial art group that was co-founded in 1999 by Charles Thomson and Billy Childish. The name was derived from an insult to Childish from his ex-girlfriend, Brit artist Tracey Emin, who had told him that his art was 'Stuck' in the past. Stuckism has since grown to an international art movement with over eighty groups around the world. I became involved in spring of 2001 when I heard a radio piece on NPR. I emailed Charles Thomson and asked if there was a local chapter in New York City I could join. There was none, so I started one myself. That was back before 9/11 of course; since then the city's economy has not been too rosy for jobs and I haven't had much time to devote to organizing art events.
Q Can you characterize the New York Stuckists as a group?
A Stuckists worldwide work without a universal theme or technique; the thing that binds us together is that we are (mostly) painters who work figuratively, although not necessarily realistically.
Q Why do you, as an artist, oppose conceptual art?
A I don't oppose conceptual art. I simply feel there is an overabundance of it in our current gallery system to the exclusion of other types of art. All art begins with a concept, but in order for the concept to become art something additional must happen to give it a physical manifestation in addition to the idea. And by physical manifestation, I don't mean taking the contents of a bathroom cabinet & rearranging them in a gallery, I mean something made and edited by the hands of an artist using thought processes and actual art-making skills. Skills beyond finding some random stuff around the house and putting it on a pedestal or in a frame and displaying it in a gallery. Skills like drawing and painting.
Q Explain how the New York Stuckists focus on figurative art conveys a message about the human condition that could never be captured by a conceptual artist?
A Each individual artist has his or her own message, conceptual artists included. Art that contains representations of the human figure, however, is easier for most people to relate to, and so is a more direct way of conveying a story or message. Movies, for example, are not abstract or purely conceptual, they have people in them for a good reason: to help tell a story. Conceptual art often has long accompanying texts, which must be read before the artist's meaning is revealed, and this is alienating for many people, myself included.
Q It has been stated that Stuckists paint their life, mind and soul with no excuses or pretensions. How is this true for you personally?
A My work is story-telling through painting. It's pretty much right out there with what it is. It's not pretending to be anything else. It's not a pair of underpants pinned to a gallery wall, claiming to be about something other than what it is, other than underwear.
Q Some people have stated that Stuckism is like 'taking a step back' in the future direction of art and that it is just a repeat of past art movements. What would you say to people who view Stuckism in this manner?
A Sometimes you take a fork in the road and it turns out you're headed in the wrong direction, so you need to double back to the fork and go the other way, to see where that leads. It's not going back, it's taking a different route forward. I'm not painting like the 20th century never happened. I may be using an old technique, but my paintings are all about the world I see today and stuff that is in my imagination now.
Q In August 2005 Stuckist artists were represented in a Remodernist show at CB's 313 gallery in New York. Did the general public embrace the show? Did any New York Stuckists take part in the show?
A I myself took part in the show, as well as Stuckists from other US cities and overseas. The show was very popular and well attended, in part because CBGBs, the legendary punk music venue, was closing down, so the show was visited by many tourists wanting to have a last look at the place, as well as people interested in the artwork.
Q It has been stated that conceptual art is stagnate. Do you think that the current art world is 'dead'?
A It's not dead but its pulse is very low. In my opinion it needs a jolt of something new to revive and become interesting and lively again.
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Brian Sherwin is a regular contributing writer for FineArtViews, is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago Illinois.