EXHIBITIONS: International Stuckism-Quintus Gallery, Watkins Glen, New York

Richard Bledsoe “Petrified Forest” acrylic on canvas 20″ x 24″ 

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International Stuckism

October 13, 2017 – November 12, 2017, opening reception Friday October 13 

Quintus Gallery 65 Salt Point Rd. Watkins Glen, NY

Featuring artists from the UK, Spain, Greece, Russia, Iran, France, the Czech Republic, Australia, and the United States 

New York artist Ron Throop continues to make things happen. His latest project has been coordinating over thirty artists from around the world to share their visions in the latest display of the global art phenomenon of Stuckism.

The great analyst Carl Jung understood what art does. He stated, “All art intuitively apprehends coming changes in the collective unconsciousness.” Before the rejection of elitist presumption and incompetence became the consuming political topic it is now, in 1999 a group of UK artists started waging the same fight against the corrupt and out of touch establishment art world. The Stuckists were a harbinger of the dynamic which is remaking society. They are the first art movement of the Remodern era.

I’ve had the privilege of hosting a Stuckist exhibit here in Phoenix, with 2014’s International Stuckism: Explorers and Inventors. I’ve also participated in other international shows, like 2015’s Stuckism: Remodernising the Mainstream, University of Kent, Canterbury England.It’s an honor to show with these committed creatives. Stuckist free expression brings connectivity and joy back into a contemporary art world too often stifled by alienation and a sense of unjustified superiority.

Ron Throop sees art as a means for bringing people together. As he explains, “Communion has been one of my artistic goals for as long as I can remember. Expressive painting is a very powerful connector to people. We are an image and story-loving species.” To spread the word he has also assembled a book about the show, “International Stuckist Invitational at Watkins Glen,” available on both Createspace and Amazon.

Michele Bledsoe and I have both contributed to this show. It’s an exciting time, being involved in the renewal of the fundamental human activity of art making. We are very grateful to Ron Throop for his diligence and vision in creating this opportunity that demonstrates the grassroots are global, and growing. 

Michele Bledsoe “Assemblage” acrylic on canvas 7″ x 5″ 

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Richard Bledsoe “In the Trenches” acrylic on canvas 12″ x 16″ 

 

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COMMENTARY: Art and the Heart of Darkness

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Richard Bledsoe “This Man Has Enlarged My Mind” acrylic on canvas 14″ x 11″

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“All great and beautiful work has come of first gazing without shrinking into the darkness.”

-John Ruskin

Darkness exists not only externally as a physical absence of light, but also references the state of mystery that abides inside every person. Part of the task of the artist is to go into that inner darkness and bring its contents to light. To reveal the hidden lets us know ourselves, and each other, better.
Visionary analyst Carl Jung referred to this as the Shadow Aspect of ourselves. Darkness does not necessarily equal evil, but evil is part of the terrain we must navigate in there. There is something in us all that remains primitive and covetous, the old animal nature, snarling over its prey.
In one of my favorite books, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad took his own particular experiences working in the Belgian Congo and translated them into a universal exploration of the corruption of power.
His character of Kurtz was a great man gone wrong. He went into the jungle thinking he would bring enlightenment to the  savages. But like many a Classical playwright could have warned him, overestimation of one’s capacities leads to tragedy.  Hubris made Kurtz into the worst savage of all, a demon god demanding worship and tribute.
I’m very comfortable in my own shadowy depths. I see the dangers of it, but also the wonders contained therein. There is great vitality stored in there, forces beyond my own limited resources. It’s exhilarating.  In the Conrad book a ragged, youthful sailor  gushes about Kurtz, “This man has enlarged  my mind,” ignoring the poles festooned with severed heads of Kurtz’s victims all around him. Carried away with enthusiasm, he has lost all perspective.
But Kurtz himself, who unleashed those great capacities, who tried to live like he was above good and evil, can not avoid acknowledging the consequences of his own choices. He is left murmuring about “The horror” with his dying breaths, a confession of the life he sees flashing before his eyes-an admission of his ultimate failure.
Good intentions are not enough.
The ends do not justify the means.
I am humbled in the presence of the Shadow. I don’t make the mistake of believing its power is my own. I can accept the flaws it shows me I have. And as a artist, I can translate its secrets into a shared experience.
“Spiritual art is not about fairyland. It is about taking hold of the rough texture of life. It is about addressing the shadow and making friends with wild dogs. Spirituality is the awareness that everything in life is for a higher purpose.”

ARTICLE-Outcasts: Post Elitist Art

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Past the Point of No Return: Elitist Art is Dead. What Comes Next?

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In my compulsive reading of the ongoing analysis regarding post election consequences and hysteria, I came across this insightful article (clink on the link to read the whole thing):

TRUMP AND THE RAGE OF THE BRAHMANDARINS, by New Class Traitor

The piece makes an interesting comparison between the power struggles of various factions of American society and the Indian Caste system. I see a similar dynamic at play in the art world, which will result in a whole new field of consequences and hysteria to explore.

India makes for an intriguing parallel for the United States after our decades of divisive establishment politicking. A melting pot no more, we’ve been encouraged to divide ourselves into competing niche interest groups, sorted out by race, class, region, religion, and genders actual and imaginary. In this, we now share much in common with the Indian subcontinent, which packs multitudes of distinct ethnic groups, belief systems, and languages into one technically unified country.

In response to the chaos inherent in so many striving factions, over time India developed a controlling system of social stratification and segregation, the caste system. It is a hierarchy where everyone was assigned their role from birth.

The article from New Class Traitor provides these definitions of the four major caste groupings (called varnas, “colors”) and a notable subset:

From top to bottom, the varnas are:

1.  Brahmins (scholars)

2.  Kshatryas (warriors, rulers, administrators)

3.  Vaishyas (merchants, artisans, and farmers)

4.  Shudras (laborers)

5.  Finally, the Dalit (downtrodden, outcasts — the term “pariah” is considered so offensive it has become “the p-word”) are traditionally considered beneath the varna system altogether, as are other “Scheduled Castes” (a legal term in present-day India, referring to eligibility for affirmative action).

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A schematic of India’s Caste System

Don’t read the “Brahmin” here as actual religious figures. In our context it means our new self-aggrandizing aristocracy of the well-connected: the globalists and their various functionaries, lackeys, and minions.

His article goes on to describe connections between this model and the current American experience:

American society used to be a byword for social mobility (“the American dream”) — but a stratification has set in, and it takes little imagination to identify strata of Dalit, Shudras, and Vaishyas in modern American society. The numerically small subculture of military families could be identified as America’s Kshatryas. So where are the Brahmins? (No, I’m not referring to the old money Boston elite.) And why am I using the portmanteau “Brahmandarins” for our New Class?

In India one was, of course, born into the Brahmin varna, and they actually delegated the messy business of governance to the varna below them. In China’s Middle Kingdom, on the other hand, not only was the scholarly Mandarin caste actually the backbone of governance, but in principle anyone who passed the civil service exams could become a Mandarin.

Originally, these exams were meant to foster a meritocracy. Predictably, over time, they evolved to select for conformity over ability, being more concerned with literary style and knowledge of the classics than with any relevant technical expertise.

Hmm, sounds familiar? Consider America’s “New Class”: academia, journalism, “helping” professions, nonprofits, community organizers, trustafarian artists,… Talent for something immediately verifiable (be it playing the piano, designing an airplane, or buying-and-selling,… ) or a track record of tangible achievements are much less important than credentials — degrees from the right places, praise from the right press organs…[emphasis mine]

The New Class should be more like the Mandarins rather than the Brahmins, as in theory (and to some degree in practice) 1st-generation membership is open to people of all backgrounds…

In practice, however, this class is highly endogamous, and its children have an inside track on similar career paths. (Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” made this case to a fare-thee-well.) Thus one finds 2nd and 3rd generation New Class members, whose outlooks on life tend to be much more insular and collectively self-centered than that of their 1st-generation peers. (It is important not to over-generalize about one’s fellow human beings: some of the fiercest fellow ‘renegades’ I know were to the manor born.) In that respect then, the New Class does resemble the Brahmins. Hence my portmanteau “Brahmandarins”.

He concludes with our last election acting as a kind of coup against the entitled “Brahmandarin” class which has dominated the establishment for decades now:

Fast-forward to the present. In the last several Presidential elections, Brahmandarin D candidates (Obama, Hillary) were pitted against Kshatriyas (McCain) or Vaishyas (Romney, Trump). Unsurprisingly, Brahmandarin presidents tend to appoint cabinet and senior aides from among the Brahmandarin caste, while Trump’s appointments came almost exclusively from the Vaishyas (Exxon CEO Tillerson for State, various other execs), and Kshatriyas (Mattis, Flynn, Kelly). It doesn’t matter that most of these people have real-world achievements to their names than a Robbie Mook type can only dream of: they are “ignorant” (read: insufficiently subservient to New Class shibboleths), “hate-filled”, etc. — All short-hand for “not one of us”.

For those same people who keep on prating about how open they are to foreign cultures (the more foreign, the better to “virtue-signal”) are completely unable to fathom the mindset of their compatriots of a different caste: they might as well come from a different planet as from a different country.

In the last election, with the smug “basket of deplorables” wisecrack, the anointed figurehead of the priestly/scholarly clique let the mask slip, and revealed the very unAmerican conceit that those who dared disagree with the establishment agenda were irredeemable Outcastes. The voters returned their verdict on that attitude.

“It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”

-Ronald Reagan

Judging from the terrible real world results of their chronic mismanagement, our governing, self-anointed “smartest people in the room” have turned out to not be smart at all. Their system of “meritocracy”  has been exposed as a racket, serving up only cronyism and a lack of accountability.

If these people had been truly educated, they would have learned from the ancient Greeks that hubris leads to nemesis. However, it’s hard to conceive of a greater collection of ignorance and nonsense than what passes for the coursework of contemporary academia, and so all the supposed best, brightest and most powerful were incapable of adapting to a changing world.

The assumption is the art world is about to rally, and put a stop this shocking turn of events. “What Does It Mean To Be An Artist In the Time Of Trump?” huffs the Huffington Post. Based on the interviews within, nothing new. These insider artists intend to offer the same old cryptoMarxist litany that has kept our contemporary cultural institutions unpleasant and irrelevant for at least 50 years. The luvvies of the establishment art markets declare they will bring you their rage. They will keep having futile tantrums launched from unstable platforms of identity politics, make lots of threats to keep subverting and questioning and denouncing, and use even more tactical buzzwords describing their various chew toy -Isms.

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Fight the Power!

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What these artists don’t see is they are defending the shabby shadows from a dead dinosaur of a political philosophy, one that has caused a century of suffering and oppression. They’ve been so well indoctrinated they don’t even realize how ineffectual they are. I won’t dignify their cheap efforts at propaganda and third rate activism with the meaningful status of art.

All art intuitively apprehends coming changes in the collective unconsciousness.

-Carl Jung

War was already declared on the excesses of establishment art, at the turn of the current century. And not only the ideological, virtue signalling style of art, but also the self-absorbed, alienating products of the Ivory Tower approach, status symbol art made to cater to the expectations of elitist curators, trophy hunting collectors, and other art snobs.

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Miro, Miro on the wall…

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In 1999, before there were recognizable populist movements aimed at stripping authority away from the incompetent and arrogant ruling political classes, there was a revolution in art. In England, a grassroots group of painters who called themselves the Stuckists launched attacks on the powerful but corrupted arts institutions of the UK. They blew apart the facade that the art world did anything but serve the agenda of the establishment. “Brit Art, in being sponsored by Saachis, main stream conservatism and the Labour government, makes a mockery of its claim to be subversive or avant-garde,” their manifesto accurately observed.

In their later masterful overview of the coming changes in collective unconsciousness, The Remodernism Manifesto, co-founders Billy Childish and Charles Thomson stated: “It is quite clear to anyone of an uncluttered mental disposition that what is now put forward, quite seriously, as art by the ruling elite, is proof that a seemingly rational development of a body of ideas has gone seriously awry.”

You can take the words “as art” out of that statement, and it summaries the abuses and failures that are coming to a head now in our culture now quite succinctly. With its distrust of received authority and emphasis on spirituality and personal responsibility, Remodernism was a harbinger of greater movements taking form across the globe.

Just like the “Brahmandarins,” the know-nothing educated classes who fancied themselves privileged and entitled, are being toppled from their positions of power in administration, so they will be cast out of their gatekeeper status in the arts. Their particular brand of “scholarly” art has had a hundred years to gain traction in our civilization, but has failed to do so. Without their endless partisan support, this stuff will vanish quickly, only notable as artifacts of a bygone era.

Who is on the wrong side of history now?

Cutting away the presumptions of the existing arts establishment is liberating. The possibilities are limitless. We are the latest iteration of the American character: optimistic, ordinary people working as explorers and inventors, self-reliant and productive. We make a complex art for complex times.

Welcome to Remodern America.

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Richard Bledsoe “Side Saddle” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″

 

 

ART QUOTES: Visionary Experience

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Max Beckmann “Perseus”

“All important things in art have always originated from the deepest feeling about the mystery of Being.”

-Max Beckmann

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Carl Jung “Solar Barge”

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens.”

–Carl Jung

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From “Crazy Over You” Charles Thomson
“The artist to a certain extent is a seer or a visionary.”
-Charles Thomson
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Paul Cezanne “Chateau Noir”
“What I am trying to translate to you is more mysterious; it is entwined in the very roots of being, in the implacable source of sensations.”
-Paul Cezanne
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guston7Philip Guston “Painters Forms”

“There comes a point when the paint doesn’t feel like paint. I don’t know why. Some mysterious thing happens.”
-Philip Guston
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William Blake “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun”
“The man who never in his mind and thoughts travel’d to heaven is no artist.”
-William Blake  

 

EXHIBITIONS – Stuckism: Remodernising the Mainstream, University of Kent, Canterbury England

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Charles Thomson “Top Hat”

It is quite clear to anyone of an uncluttered mental disposition that what is now put forward, quite seriously, as art by the ruling elite, is proof that a seemingly rational development of a body of ideas has gone seriously awry. The principles on which Modernism was based are sound, but the conclusions that have now been reached from it are preposterous.

We address this lack of meaning, so that a coherent art can be achieved and this imbalance redressed.

Let there be no doubt, there will be a spiritual renaissance in art because there is nowhere else for art to go. Stuckism’s mandate is to initiate that spiritual renaissance now.

-The Remodernism Manifesto

I have been dedicated to creating art pretty much my entire conscious life. I’ve been a working, exhibiting artist since the late 1980s. But my whole perspective on art underwent a profound shift in 2010, when I discovered a few powerful documents during some late night web surfing.

Coming across the Stuckism and Remodernism Manifestos was inspirational. Billy Childish and Charles Thomson were able to articulate ideas I’d long held but had not put into a larger context. They showed me I was not alone in my belief in the possibilities of art. They described a new way forward after the inevitable failures of nihilistic, decadent Postmodernism.

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English artists Charles Thomson and Billy Childish

With Remodernism, they created an open source art movement, a convincing alternative to elitist snobbery, and a way to build on the traditions of the past to make the art of the future. I am grateful for their integrity. They demonstrated to me the grassroots are global.

Since 1999, Stuckism has spread to 236 declared groups in 52 countries. DIY shows and pop up galleries are common features for these independent artists, and there’s always some excitement brewing somewhere. In January 2014 I curated “International Stuckists: Explorers and Inventors” here in Phoenix, Arizona, hosting works from the USA, England, Wales, Spain, France and the Czech Republic. Stuckism Russia just held a show in Moscow in August 2015, and created a video of the opening. But the next Stuckist show scheduled is being held in a more established venue.

I am honored to announce I’m taking part in “Stuckism: Remodernising the Mainstream” at the University of Kent,  Canterbury, England. 70 paintings from 42 artists will be displayed, including works from movement co-founder Charles Thomson and original members such as Ella Guru and Bill Lewis. Black Francis, front man of the legendary alternative band the Pixies and founder of the Amherst Stuckists, is also taking part.

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Stuckists meet: Edgeworth Johnstone, Black Francis, Shelley Li

As Carl Jung stated, “All art intuitively apprehends coming changes in the collective unconsciousness.” Stuckism and Remodernism can been seen as harbingers of the growing rebellion against the presumptions of an entrenched and unaccountable ruling class, a revolt which is becoming increasingly visible in society. The movements will continue to grow until the facades of Postmodern sophistry are discredited and eliminated.

This is the piece I contributed which I feel perfectly captures the energy at work here. An image straight out of the writings of Mark Twain, but which evokes Kali, symbol of Time, Change, Power, Creation, Preservation … and Destruction. That’s the spirit of this age.

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Richard Bledsoe “The Portrait of Emmeline Grangerford” acrylic on canvas 30″ x 24″

Stuckism: Remodernising the Mainstream

Studio 3 Gallery, Jarman Building, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7UG

1 October – 11 December 2015

Artists include: Philip Absolon, Floyd Anthony Alsbach, Virginia Andow, Richard Bledsoe, Godfrey Blow, John Bourne, Nick Christos, Jonathon Coudrille, Adam Crosland, Mark D, Elsa Dax, Hamed Dehnavi, Artista Eli, Eamon Everall, Black Francis, Andrew Galbraith, Ella Guru, Paul Harvey, Jiri Hauschka, Wolf Howard, Edgeworth Johnstone, Jacqueline Jones, Jane Kelly, Shelley Li, Joe Machine, Terry Marks, Peter Murphy, Bill Lewis, Persita, Justin Piperger, Emma Pugmire, Farsam Sangini, Frank Schroeder, Jasmine Surreal, Charles Thomson, Marketa Urbanova, Yaroslav Valecka, Charles Williams, Odysseus Yakoumakis, Chris Yates, Annie Zamero.

EXPLOITS: Artist Bill Lewis and the Cosmic Unconsciousness

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Remodernist Painter and Poet Bill Lewis at a recent exhibit in the UK

But where does imagination end and reality begin?

-Dr Julian Karswell                                                    

Carl Jung was a visionary psychiatrist who understood religion, spirituality and mysticism as key elements of the human experience. In his work he developed the concept of synchronicity, the significant coincidence. It’s when things happen that seem meaningfully related, but which happen without any apparent cause. For Jung it was a demonstration of the collective unconscious in operation, a universal awareness that everyone shares. In my life experiences synchronicity is a common phenomenon.

I recently experienced an amazing moment of synchronicity. It involved artist and poet Bill Lewis. Bill is one of the original  British Stuckist artists, having been part of the seminal Medway Poets group even before the art movement began. Bill Lewis has continued his work as a Remodernist artist, and as I got involved with the international movement, I made his acquaintance through Facebook of all things. Since then we’ve exchanged books and our thoughts of the mysteries of art and life. It’s one of the wonders of this age, how we can connect with interesting people half a world away.

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Reading “The Book of Misplaced But Imperishable Names” by Bill Lewis at a Phoenix AZ poetry event

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Bill Lewis with The Secret Kingdom

Bill has had many intense moments of synchronicity, so his role in my recent experience is no surprise. One evening just before Christmas I was coming home from work, driving down a short cut through the alley behind our house, when one of the neighborhood feral cats ran in front of my car.

The cat was far ahead of me, it was in no peril. In the dark twilight all I saw was the indistinct bobbing of its mostly white body. The sight reminded me of a creepy passage from an old favorite story of mine, “Casting the Runes,” by M. R. James.

At the beginning of the story an evil warlock puts on a magic lantern show that traumatizes the local children. The images included “a horrible hopping creature in white.” The glimpse of the cat in motion triggered a memory of that description, although I haven’t read the story in ages.

When I got home moments later there was a package waiting for me that had arrived that day in the mail. It was an unexpected Christmas gift from Bill Lewis. I couldn’t wait until Xmas, I tore right into it. It was a DVD of the classic British horror movie, “Night of the Demon,” and the recut American version “Curse of the Demon.” This film is based on the story “Casting the Runes” by M. R. James.

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I was so moved by this experience I ended up creating a painting about it, featured in the current exhibit “BOOKED: Contemporary Literary Art.”

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Richard Bledsoe “A Horrible Hopping Creature in White” acrylic on canvas 16″ x 20″

The connotations of this event are very interesting to me. A key plot point of the story is how the attention of paranormal forces get passed along by means of a rune inscribed slip of paper delivered to an unsuspecting recipient. In an interview, Bill Lewis describes inspiration being passed along like a virus between carriers. I see a connection  in these models.

I don’t see the demonic content of this particular transmittal as an ominous thing. If anything, it’s a cautionary example, a call to examine my own motivations and actions.  The warlock in the story and movie abused his knowledge selfishly, evoking energy in an effort to build his own power, and he was destroyed by it. In this unexpected and meaningful gift, I saw not a demon, but a demonstration of wisdom. Thank you Bill!