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Stuckism: Painting over the Turner prize

PUBLISHED: 11:02 01 November 2012 | UPDATED: 11:07 01 November 2012

A live performance by the artist Spartacus Chetwynd, who is shortlisted for the 2012 Turner prize

A live performance by the artist Spartacus Chetwynd, who is shortlisted for the 2012 Turner prize

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Four swamp-like characters smeared in khaki green paint are prowling around a black and white print room while trippy beats are billowing out.

One of Damien Hirst's spot paintingsOne of Damien Hirst's spot paintings

One of the characters tries to interact with an audience member.

She looks utterly bewildered at what is going on.

Mystifying though it is, this performance by artist Spartacus Chetwynd is one of the four nominees for the Turner prize 2012.

Every year the award celebrates contemporary art and the winners are often shrouded in controversy, from Damien Hirst’s shark in formaldehyde to Tracey Emin’s notorious unmade bed.

The Birth of Venus by BotticelliThe Birth of Venus by Botticelli

While the Turner prize receives its praise, it also has its critics - the Stuckists being one of them.

Mary Hamill is a Gravesend artist who has recently been involved in their latest exhibition.

Billed as an alternative to what the Stuckists call the “vomit-inducing Turner Prize”, the show in Bermondsey backed the Stuckist manifesto – anti-conceptual art, anti-commercial exploitation and anti-egos.

Mary HamillMary Hamill

The art movement was founded in 1999 by artists Charles Thomson and Bill Childish, an ex of Tracey Emin, to campaign against the pretensions of contemporary art.

When Mary met Charles many years ago at a Kabbalah group in Maidstone, she was intrigued.

“When he first set it up he talked to me about it,” says the 57-year-old who is studying for a fine art degree in Canterbury.

“I wasn’t too sure about it in the beginning but he invited me to join the group and I started to exhibit with them last year.”

Mary HamillMary Hamill

Charles, as the sole leader of Stuckism, is staunch about what should be considered as art.

“Charles has valid points,” explains Mary. “We need to have people who can truly draw and paint. It can be isolating to the public if you need an art degree to appreciate something.

“I like painting that people can just enjoy and appreciate immediately. I do not want someone to have to be a connoisseur to enjoy it.”

Stuckism tries to draw in both professionals and amateurs as part of their campaign to take elitism out of the artist world.

Mary, an amateur, has been displaying her work among 30 or so other artists of ranging abilities and styles.

She is more open-minded about what constitutes art.

“I think there is room for more than one type of art. I do appreciate Rothko and abstract artists. I appreciate them without being an art buff,” she says.

“I have seen past Turner prizes where I could understand why they are have been chosen. Sometimes there is enormous skill and thought. But it is very elitist and very often the kind of work they are hailing is for a minority of people.”

At the exhibition, as well as the paintings by artists such as Mary, distinguished British art critic Edward Lucie-Smith presented a selection of displays that mocked the everyday items that are often served up as modern art.

Instead of a Damien Hirst spot painting for £1.75m, for instance, he offered a £3.50 spotted table-cloth from a supermarket.

While not considering himself as part of the movement, Lucie-Smith said: “Stuckism is now, whether one likes it or not, an important part of the British scene and the barrier that used to exist between Stuckism and the rest of the British contemporary art world has started to break down.”

Mary, with her penchant for early Rennaissance as well as the likes of contemporary sculptor Anish Kapoor, bridges that divide.

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