Dear Sir or Madam,We cordinally invite you to the official opening of the exhibition STUCK.IN | VENICE.

18 hodin | 6 pm
CREA Cantieri del Contemporaneo
Giudecca 211, Venice, Italy


Stuckists in Venice

A joint exhibition of British and Czech Stuckists will be one of the reference exhibitions accompanying the Venice Biennale of Fine Arts. Stuckism, which was born in the context of English art history and from which it draws its inspiration, has also attracted the attention of many artists outside the British Isles. It has had a special resonance in the Czech Republic, which has been greeted with curious and surprising interest in English professional circles. This is evidenced by the inclusion of the Czech stuckists Jiří Hauschek and Jaroslav Valečka in the publication of the doyen of British art history Eduard Lucie-Smith's Moments in Art Since 1945, published in the prestigious World of Art edition by Thames & Hudson in London in 2020 in its fourth, expanded edition. Jiri Hauschka has a full-page reproduction here, which is certainly a great achievement.

It is a logical step, then, that Czech and British Stuckists should meet in an exhibition, contributing to the knowledge of a branch of contemporary painting that is in some respects overlooked by conceptually eccentric schools of thought. Paradoxically, however, it meets with a noticeable interest from an art-loving public that appreciates a painting strategy rooted in tradition and its peripatetic development in the present. From the Czech side, the exhibition will be attended by the aforementioned Jiří Hauschka and Jaroslav Valečka, as well as Markéta Urbanová. They will thus complete the line-up of reference British Stuckists, such as Charles Thompson and Joe Machine, which will lead to international collaboration, of which there is no shortage in relation to Czech artists. The exhibition also opens up a discussion about the potential for contemporary art to take its cues from historically proven sources, becoming a sure, but positive, artistic controversy and painterly certainty in a stormy sea of current artistic styles.

One of the dominating features of the project are the paintings of Jiří Hauschka (born 1965 in Šumperk). With his work we get into an environment where there is a confrontation, or rather symbiosis, between man and landscape. Jiří Hauschka turns to the type of painting for which colours and symbolic connotations are important, as was the case at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries - in this period Jiří Hauschka refers in particular to the Canadian painter Tom Thomson, who lived from 1877 to 1917 - or in the studios of contemporary artists such as Daniel Richter or Peter Doig. Reality is transformed in the painter's narrative into a layered narrative, where artistic memory is mixed with new experiences, insights, desires, and emotional stirrings. In the case of Jiří Hauschka, we find ourselves in the wilderness, the wilderness of painterly nostalgia, where we search for man, and in urban civilization, that civilization which is on the verge of its possibilities, and where we thus feel and see the colours of the wilderness.

Jaroslav Valečka (born 1972 in Prague) is one of the most frequently exhibited painters in the Czech context. If the British Stuckists touch formally and manifestly on the 19th century Pre-Raphaelitism, much appreciated in England, the Czech Stuckists in their "retro-avant-garde", to use Edward Lucie-Smith's formulation, turn to the birth of landscape modernism and symbolism of the turn of the 20th century. This tendency is evident in Valeček's paintings, where we feel the contradictory nostalgia of the Art Nouveau clash between modern civilisation and artistic traditionalism. Unlike many British Stuckists, and also Jiří Hauschka, Valečka had a traditional artistic education, having studied at the Prague Academy in the painting studio of Jiří Sopek and the sculpture studio of Jan Hendrych.

The British Stuckists represent a world unto themselves, although one can trace in many of them inspiring links to historical phases of painting, particularly from the 19th century and the Pre-Raphaelite movement of the time. This applies to the work of Joe Machin (real name Joseph Stokes, born 6 April 1973 in Chatham), Ella Guru (real name Ella Drauglis, born 24 May 1966 in Ohio, USA) and Paul Harvey (born 7 May 1960 in Burton upon Trent).

Ella Guru is not only a painter but also a musician, and in her native USA she studied art at Columbus College of Art and Design (1984-86) and at Ohio State University (1988-89). Before becoming one of the thirteen founding members of the Stuckist movement in 1999, she lived a colorful life that would undoubtedly make a good subject for a novel or a Netflix miniseries. Her immediate, unencumbered by convention, view of the world and art is naturally reflected in her paintings, which mix religious motifs with mythological and pop culture ones, with a degree of "incorrectness" that makes it impossible not to love her paintings.

Religious motifs can also be seen in Joe Machin, whose imagery ranges from blossoming avenues to harsh port life, saturated with violence and sex. Among these images, Expelled from Paradise is a natural consequence of living on the edge, but the question remains whether we will reach salvation or damnation through beautiful art. Joe Machine uses painting to tackle the social inequality and tensions that have gripped British society and art from the novels of Charles Dickens to the definitive trainspotting generation of today. Joe Machin's paintings breathe Britishness, romantic longing and openness, as well as a fierce struggle with his own social determinism. With every painting, the painter confirms that art is his reason for being, a question asked again and again.

As well as painting, Paul Harvey, who is also a punk musician, is strongly influenced by the Czech Art Nouveau painter Alfons Mucha, who was active in Paris at the time, and, like many Stuckists, by Pop Art. However, he also draws on the Czech interwar avant-garde. He joined Stuckism in 2001, and in a 2016 interview with the Prague newspaper Právo, he characterizes the movement as follows. And like punk, it literally slapped me in the face. I immediately felt identified with it. It was the same when I first heard the Sex Pistols. It was like a revelation. Another similarity I see is the way stuckism is received. It's quite respected in the Czech Republic, but unfortunately not in England. They say we're terrible painters with no ideas, that we're basically hopeless. But that's not true."

The painter, poet and curator Charles Thompson (b. 1953 in Romford) is a founder of stuckism, along with the painter Billy Childish. This happened with the publication of a manifesto in 1999, when the name was "coined" by the leading British conceptual artist Tracey Emin (Billy Childish's lover in the 1980s), who used the word stuck to refer to Stuckist paintings. These return to conservative and classical, mostly figurative motifs, but each artist has their own personal artistic language. 

This is not a distinct artistic or precisely definable stylistic expression, which is also evident in Thompson's work. His paintings have a spontaneous freedom from binding conventions, his artistic language in a way harks back to childhood visual creations, to that time when everything is intuitive, open, new and possible.

Martin Dostál