- Charles Thomson, Stella Vine, and the Stuckists
In 2001, British artist Stella Vine was exhibited by the Stuckists group, which she joined for a short time; she was married briefly to the group co-founder, Charles Thomson. From 2004–2006 The Stuckists, led by Thomson, had a number of public disputes with Vine, many of which were reported in the media.
Stella Vine developed a "crush" on co-founder of the Stuckists art group Billy Childish, like the artist Tracey Emin had before her. She followed him, attending his music events. In June 2000, she went to a talk given by Childish and fellow Stuckist co-founder Charles Thomson on Stuckism and Remodernism, promoted by the Institute of Ideas at the Salon des Arts, Kensington.
She subsequently met Thomson on 30 May 2001 at the private view of the Vote Stuckist show in Brixton, where she accepted the invitation to form a group called The Westminster Stuckists and to exhibit some of her paintings publicly for the first time in the show. Her works depicted Sylvia Plath, her step father, a stripper and a life painting from Hampstead School of Art. She also invigilated and made some display material for the show, and bought two paintings by Childish, one by Stephen Howarth and one by Joe Machine—in 2004, she said a Childish painting of himself and Tracey Emin was one of the pictures she had on the walls of her home or studio.
On 4 June 2001, she took part in a Stuckist demonstration in Trafalgar Square at the unveiling of Rachel Whiteread's sculpture, Monument, and displayed a placard she had made saying, "Emperors new clothes". She said, "I won't be doing that again", and by 10 July 2001 she renamed her group The Unstuckists. In mid-August 2001, after a two month relationship with Thomson, they married in New York; she was described by the Evening Standard as a "fellow Stuckist". A painting by her was exhibited in The Stuckists, the first Stuckist show in Paris, curated by Elsa Dax, 19 October – 16 November 2001 at the Musee d'Adzac. Thomson said she rejected the Stuckists at this time. In March 2004, Vine said she had quickly realised that the marriage and the Stuckist group were not right for her.
Thomson and Vine marriage
Vine and Thomson first met at the private view of the Vote Stuckist show at the Fridge Gallery in Brixton in May 2001, where she introduced herself to him, "I used to be a stripper and I've had a boob job." In 2004, Thomson said they had talked about the art world and her enthusiasm and keenness on painting was apparent to him, as well as her desire to be noticed. He said that at that time, "I liked her spirit, but I didn't fancy her. She looked beaten down by life." Vine was impressed by Thomson’s "hypnotic charms". In 2008, she said that Thomson had talked about painting her nude, which he wanted to be an erotic depiction; she likened the conversation to talking to a man in a strip club, and found something dark in him which she understood.
They met up on two occasions in the following three weeks and she emailed him, "What have you done to this poor vulnerable girl? Something for sure. I'm missing you terribly". Thomson, though flattered, still viewed her as a friend, until shortly after when he invited her to visit one night, after she had phoned him up three times. Thomson said it was Vine who suggested they should spend the night together, and that by the time he reached the room, "she was buck naked. I commented on the speed of her undressing and she said she was used to it."
Thomson liked Vine’s paintings and Vine said he offered to pay off £20,000 of her debt in order to fund her painting on the agreement that she got married to him. Thomson said that the money was part of a business deal to promote their work and themselves as an art couple, and there was no condition of marriage attached to this. Vine spoke of sometimes having a genuine love for him but that Thomson was very controlling of her, wanting to know fine details of her life including what she ate. Thomson also said Vine was controlling. Vine said that Thomson spoke to her of past lives and believed he and Vine had always been together including telling Vine he had murdered her in several previous lives. Thomson told The Sunday Times that he "did once go through some Past Lives stuff with Stella, but to accuse him of possessing mystical powers is ludicrous." Vine said the effect his actions had on her was an "all-consuming head-fuck". In August 2001, after a two month romance, she married Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Stuckists, in New York.
Thomson believed it was his destiny to marry Vine. He said in the Evening Standard in 2001 that it was Vine who had gone down "on bended knee". Vine told Scotland on Sunday that she refused to marry him at first, but then agreed to go on holiday with him to New York, and that on arrival she discovered he had prepared a wedding. Thomson said, "she was continually changing her mind". Vine said that she resisted for three days before giving in to Thomson’s requests. She no longer wanted to be a stripper and his offer of £20,000 was too good an offer to refuse. She said she cried in a toilet before the marriage, and did not tell her son about the marriage, as he would have told her not to do it.
There was no proper ceremony, no wedding rings and Vine was said to be in "too much of a daze to understand what was going on". On Wednesday night directly following the ceremony, a physical argument was started as Vine refused to consummate the marriage. Thomson burst one of Vine's breast implants and Vine bit his arm. She put Thomson's suitcase in the hotel hallway and left wearing torn clothes and one small bag and her passport. That night she slept outside New York's Grand Central Station and left him alone for the remainder of the honeymoon. Thomson stated the same story but with a slightly prolonged time scale; the wedding on Wednesday, her request for a divorce on Thursday, on Friday she trashed the hotel room and by Saturday she had left. The marriage was short-lived only lasting 48 hours which back up Vine's interpretation of events.
When The Sunday Times asked Thomson whether he had tricked Vine into marrying him, he burst "into theatrical, and slightly spooky, laughter." but maintained Vine wanted to get married. Vine said she could not cope with Thomson’s controlling behaviour so the relationship ended. Describing the night of their marriage, Thomson commented to The Mail on Sunday in 2004 that Vine had told him that she would not have sex with him as long as they were married. Thomson described Vine as a violent She-Devil and a liar. Andrew Billen of The Times newspaper commented that Vine now regarded Stuckism as a misogynistic cult. A short reconciliation took place in London, after the couple met a week later at East India Club in St James's Square in August 2001. They finally consummated their marriage. They did not see each other again, except for one time in an art shop.
The couple were granted a divorce in October 2003. In 2003, after Vine "rose to fame after being championed by Charles Saatchi", Thomson claimed he had discovered Vine and that they had finally split up in October 2003. In 2006, Thomson claimed Vine "was so over the moon that she married me, which was a bit excessive." Whilst in 2004, Vine described her brief marriage to Thomson as "an utter disaster".
In February 2004, when the press announced Charles Saatchi's purchase of Vine's painting of Diana, Princess of Wales, Vine said she had never agreed with her ex-husband Thomson's Stuckist views. Thomson said that he had "believed in her work from the very beginning", and that he was pleased for her, but it was the Stuckists and not Saatchi who had discovered her. The Independent said that Thomson was angry because he felt Saatchi was hijacking the Stuckists' identity, as he moved away from Britart, that Thomson had a fair claim and that Vine was "a protegee of the Stuckist movement." Thomson said:
- When I met Stella, she was painting ordinary portraits and still lifes in an evening class, with no expression or emotion. When I saw her doodles of strippers and nightclubs, I told her that was where her talent lay. All her work now is Stuckist through and through.
On 7 March 2004, in The Independent on Sunday, Vine was asked how she decided to become an artist and what was her inspiration. She said, "a wonderful ex-boyfriend, Ross" had always said it was something she should do, and she had always created "crazy doodles", but at that time had musical and theatrical ambitions. She said she had attended classes at Hampstead School of Art, where she did some painting, which she loved. She said:
- I met The Fascists (sorry The Stuckists!) and I learnt about art by default. It made me look in the opposite direction to what they were advocating. They said I didn't have to agree with them, just to like painting and want to put on shows.
She said she had quickly concluded that her relationship with Thomson and the Stuckists was wrong for her, so she forged contact with East London artist-run galleries. Vine commented much of her art education came through reading at the Serpentine Gallery bookshop.
Also on 7 March 2004, Thomson talked about Vine in the Mail on Sunday, saying that she told him at their first meeting in 2001 she wanted to emulate Stuckist co-founder, Childish. Thomson said that though Vine had informed people she learned painting at the Hampstead School of Art, she had only taken a few classes and made around eight paintings, and at that time was talented, but had "no direction or imagination". He said that Vine came to his studio, where he tutored her in oil painting techniques, brushwork and composition; he encouraged her to have belief in herself, and supported her so she could paint, but she stopped painting and intimated she would return to stripping. Thomson said he made an offer to buy her work, but she said he "only wanted to control her."
A week later, in Scotland on Sunday, Vine said that she had not agreed with the principles of Stuckism, but Thomson liked her painting, which he offered to fund by paying off her debts of £20,000, if she got married to him. In the following issue of the newspaper, Thomson said that his financial offer to Vine carried no marriage condition, but was a business arrangement to promote their marketability as an art couple, that this arrangement had started before their marriage and he had been willing to continue with it even after the end of their relationship.
On 17 March 2004, the Evening Standard said Vine had taken life-drawing evening classes, but it was Thomson who took "the credit for Vine's raw, childlike style." The paper published a letter in response from him, where he "blamed" her style on Childish, but "blamed" himself for Vine's ideas, "for example the idea of portraying a public figure's imagined private thoughts on canvas". He compared his own painting Sir Nicholas Serota Makes an Acquisitions Decision—which he said Vine knew well—with her portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales. The Guardian, under the heading "Saatchi's people", said that Vine had started painting as a member of the Stuckists and been married to Thomson for a short time, but had "now very publicly renounced both."
At the end of March 2004, Thomson took the "extraordinary step" of making a formal complaint about Charles Saatchi to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), claiming that Saatchi's leading position was monopolistic "to the detriment of smaller competitors". The dispute was increased in bitterness, because of Saatchi's promotion of Vine and the wide perception of her as one of his discoveries. Thomson said that her creativity had been fostered not by Saatchi but by him and the Stuckists, who had been "airbrushed out of the picture", and that, lacking a worldwide marketing organisation, he was unable to get his view heard.
On 5 April 2004, The Times reported that Vine, who had not spoken with Thomson for two years, might jettison her career, as a result of the report to the OFT. She said that Thomson's depiction of their time together was biased with a view to gaining from her recent success. She said the report was part of a sequence of making use of other artists to get media coverage, that Thomson's basic wish was to have his own television programme, that he was a misogynist, who thought women on their own were incapable, and that he didn't "give a s*** about art or the Stuckist movement."
The following day, Andrew Renton in the Evening Standard, calling the Stuckists "new-fogey", said that Thomson "only squealed when his ex hit the big time" and that his argument, as displayed on the Stuckist web site, was "confused, illogical", and based on examples, such as Vine's painting, Hi Paul, Can You Come Over, to make a case that Saatchi had gained the benefit of Thomson's initial work. Renton said, "Thomson needs to forget the idea of fair trading. Art is not fair." The only fairness in a capitalist system was whatever price a collector was prepared to pay; Saatchi was not exercising a monopoly over Vine, but giving her the opportunity for a wider audience. Renton likened Vine to artist Tracey Emin, as for both of them media exposure had attached controversy to their creativity. Renton described Thomson's claim as a "chip-on-shoulder" and that he should "Get over it".
Thomson's letter, published in response, said that Renton had pilloried him for being "confused", "illogical", "chip-on-shoulder" and "complaining", while upholding Vine's "wayward" art and Emin's appearance of churlishness, on the basis that we should allow artists "to be unreasonable and selfish". Thomson asked, "Are there two sets of standards? One for Saatchi artists—another for Stuckist artists?"
Two days later on 15 April 2004, the OFT sent a letter, saying that they had closed the file on the case, as "we do not have reasonable grounds to suspect that Charles Saatchi is in a dominant position in any relevant market." Thomson later wrote that this was "just another cruel smack in the face" for Saatchi.
Vine said that it was not Thomson who gave her artistic inspiration, but "if anything it was the other way round". On 15 June 2004, Andrew Billen interviewed her for The Times, observing that the "interestingly obsessive" Stuckist website still featured a large headline "THE STUCKIST STELLA VINE", which Vine resented furiously and saw as harassment. He conjectured that the simplest solution might be for her to recognise the Stuckists had played a small part and to let go, but found he "couldn't have said anything worse." Vine said, "'Just admit it, yeah? How could you possibly have taught yourself to paint? You're just a blonde stripper'." She said that without having been to school, she had provided for herself from the age of 13, brought up a son to adulthood, promoted theatre groups, purchased a butcher's shop, and taught herself to sing and play guitar: "Regardless of all that, of course, this dynamic man must have taught me to paint."
Vine continued that she had no issue with a generous response to people who had inspired her, and that she had named Sophie Von Hellerman, Karen Kilimnik, Anna Bjerger, Paul Housley, and Elizabeth Peyton—some being younger London artists and two being noted American painters—in interviews and blogs, but that she did have "a very, very big problem with someone who saw me coming and exploited me as a mascot." She became more distressed when Billen said the Stuckists sounded like a gang in the playground; Vine said, "He's full of shit and, basically, every time people ask me about this f***ing man, it's impossible to get my point of view across." She said that when there are clever bullies in the playground and everybody says to ignore them, "this kid ends up hanging himself."
A month later, the Daily Mail reported that Thomson had sold his four-storey gallery in Shoreditch to move to North London and was "keen to leave behind his ex-wife—who lives uncomfortably close."
In September 2004, The Stuckists Punk Victorian show opened at the Liverpool Biennial. Simon Pia in The Scotsman said that Vine had threatened suicide if her work was included in the show: "Unfortunately, the owner of the painting bowed to her request." Harold Werner Rubin held a show "Stigmata" or "Censorious": The Stuckists Punk Victorian in his Rivington Gallery, highlighting the "bids for censorship" by Vine and another former Stuckist exhibitor, Gina Bold; Rubin exhibited relevant work, including portraits of Vine by Thomson. Thomson and Vine's wedding reception had been held at the gallery, from which she had on a later occasion been banned for "behaviour too outrageous to mention."
In October 2006, The Stuckists held a group show, Go West, at Spectrum London gallery, including two of Thomson's paintings, Stripper and Strip Club, which the press release for the show said were "explicit images of his ex-wife." The Independent on Sunday said that many people would view the "explicit, humiliating nude portraits" as revenge for their short-lived marriage.
Thomson said the works would make Vine "pissed off" and "angry", but that she had double standards, and painted images of Princess Diana and Rachel Whitear that were far more upsetting for their relatives than his would be for Vine. He said his motivation was not an attack but a gruelling catharsis following the end of the marriage with Vine and the "gutting" emotional effect on him of her stories about her time in the sex industry. Vine told the paper "I have no comment. I've had my dealings with them [the Stuckists] over the past couple of years and I don't want to say anything more."
In a letter to the paper one week later, Thomson reiterated that he did not intend vengeance or humiliation, adding that Vine had taken pride in being a stripper, as she should, and that "I would prefer her to enjoy these, as I still enjoy her art".
In July 2007, at the same time as the opening of Vine's major solo show at Modern Art Oxford, Thomson, furious at Vine's refusal to acknowledge her debt to the Stuckists, held a rival Stuckist show at the A Gallery in Wimbledon, I Won't Have Sex with You as Long as We're Married, which Vine apparently said to him on their wedding night.
Tate gallery Chairman Paul Myners visited both Vine's and Thomson's shows in succession.
Seeing a revival of Vine's long term battles with the Stuckists, The Independent announced in February that Mark D (real name Mark Randall) was opening a show of satirical paintings based on Vine's work, replacing Princess Diana with Victoria Beckham and substituting the text, "David, can you come home I'm really frightened America doesn't love me." Another work targeting Vine's famous images of supermodel Kate Moss, showed Moss eating slugs.
Several years previously, Randall had attempted to buy a painting from Vine, who told him, "Go fuck yourself", when she found out he had a link with Thomson. Randall said, "Stella is more than welcome to pay a visit to the exhibition but, judging by the last time we spoke, I can't imagine she will do."
In September, Thomson wrote in The Jackdaw, criticising the Tate gallery for not having work by a number of figurative painters, among whom he listed Vine, noting her prominence. When launching the customary Stuckist demonstration against the Turner Prize, he said the shortlist showed Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota's "personal and narrow taste" and that one of the nominees should have been Vine, "whose show at Modern Art Oxford gained considerable critical approval. She is another figurative painter, who has been completely ignored."
Notes and references
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Januszczak, Waldemar. "The Paint Stripper", The Sunday Times, 10 June 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
- ^ a b c d e "Stella Vine the Stuckist in photos", Stuckism. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
- ^ a b c d Thomson, Charles (August 2004), "A Stuckist on Stuckism: Stella Vine", from: Ed. Frank Milner (2004), The Stuckists Punk Victorian, p. 23, National Museums Liverpool, ISBN 1-902700-27-9. Available online at stuckism.com.
- ^ "The transformation of Stella Vine's art" stuckism.com. Accessed 24 April 2006
- ^ a b c d e f g h "The Money Issue: answer the questions! Stella Vine - Princess Diana, Prozac and private views", The Independent on Sunday, 7 March 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
- ^ "New sculpture in London's Trafalgar Square", Getty Images, 4 June 2001. Retrieved 6 January 2008.
- ^ Stuckism news: Westminster Stuckists come unstuck", stuckism.com, 10 July 2001. Retrieved from Internet Archive, 9 January 2009.
- ^ "Trouble and strife", Evening Standard, p. 12, 20 August 2001.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Johnson, Angella. "Stella is a violent, lying She-Devil who told me: 'As long as we are married I won't have sex with you", The Mail on Sunday, 7 March 2004.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j Billen, Andrew. "I Made More Money As A Stripper...", The Times, 15 June 2004. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Deveney, Catherine. "Stripped bare", Scotland on Sunday, 14 March 2004. Retrieved on 17 December 2008.
- ^ a b c d Johnston, Ian. "Former husband of artist Vine denies paying her to marry him", Scotland on Sunday, 21 March 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
- ^ a b c d e "Trouble and strife", Evening Standard (London), p. 12, 20 August 2001.
- ^ a b c d Moody, Paul. "Everyone's talking about Stella Vine", The Guardian, 12 July 2007. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- ^ "Trapped in the circle of house hunter's hell", Evening Standard (London), 5 September 2006. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
- ^ Kay Richard. "The fine art of a swift escape.", Daily Mail, 14 July 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
- ^ Akbar, Afria. "Autism charity attracts titans of the art world", The Independent, 22 October 2007. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
- ^ Teodorczuk, Tom. "Modern art is pants; Painting that mocks Tate chief on show in West End.", Evening Standard (London), 22 August 2006. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
- ^ a b Alleyne, Richard. "The 'Saatchi effect' has customers queueing for new artist", The Daily Telegraph, 28 February 2004. Retrieved 10 January 2008.
- ^ Alleyne, Richard. "First blood to Saatchi as a star is born", 'The Daily Telegraph, 24 February 2004. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- ^ a b Guest, Katy. "Saatchi and Stuckists brush in war of the art worlds", The Independent, p. 8, 5 March 2004. Retrieved 9 January 2009.
- ^ Saner, Emine. "Why I had to paint Rachel; Her portrait of a heroin addict may be controversial - the police want it withdrawn from the Saatchi Gallery - but for Stella Vine, such work is clearly an expression of her own troubled life.", Evening Standard (London), 17 March 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
- ^ a b Thomson, Charles. Don't blame me for my ex's Childish painting", Evening Standard, p. 32, 23 March 2004.
- ^ Kennedy, Maev. "Smart thinking takes on Saatchi hype", The Guardian, 23 March 2004. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
- ^ a b c d Stummer, Robin. "Charles Saatchi 'abuses his hold on British art market'", The Independent on Sunday, 28 March 2004. Retrieved 17 December 2008.
- ^ a b c Malvern, Jack. "Saatchi dragged into artists' dispute", The Times, p. 7, 5 April 2004.
- ^ a b c d e Renton, Andrew. "Artists' licence; Collector Charles Saatchi, artist Tracey Emin and painter Stella Vine have all been criticised for 'unfair' practices. But 'fairness' would kill art.", Evening Standard, p. 41, 6 April 2004.
- ^ a b Thomson, Charles. "Puzzling art standards; Letters", Evening Standard, p. 24, 13 April 2004.
- ^ Charles Saatchi reported to OFT: OFT conclusion", stuckism.com. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
- ^ Thomson, Charles (August 2004), "A Stuckist on Stuckism: Charles Saatchi and the OFT attack", from: Ed. Frank Milner (2004), The Stuckists Punk Victorian, p. 23, National Museums Liverpool, ISBN 1-902700-27-9. Available online at stuckism.com.
- ^ Paton, Maureen. "From the heart", The Mail on Sunday, p. 8, 9 May 2004.
- ^ Kay, Richard. "The fine art of a swift escape", Daily Mail, p. 39, 14 July 2004.
- ^ Pia, Simon. "Now the Stuckists are on the move", The Scotsman, p. 22, 22 September 2004.
- ^ a b "The Rivington Gallery: Archive: 'Stigmata' or 'Censorious': The Stuckists Punk Victorian", stuckism.com. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
- ^ a b c d e Barnes, Anthony. "Portrait of an ex-husband's revenge: The vicious feud between artists Charles Thomson and his former wife, Stella Vine, has spilled over on to canvas.", The Independent, 3 September 2006. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
- ^ Thomson, Charles. "Paint Stripper", Letters, p. 40, The Independent on Sunday, 10 September 2006.
- ^ a b c d e f g Deedes, Henry. "Vine's Stuckist rival sticks one on her at exhibition", The Independent, 13 February 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
- ^ "I Won't Have Sex with You as long as We're Married" (photos), stuckism.com. Retrieved 19 December 2008.
- ^ "I Won't Have Sex with You as long as We're Married", stuckism.com. Retrieved 19 December 2008.
- ^ Duff, Oliver. "Legal sharks circle round Davis and his chief of staff", (3rd story), The Independent, 27 July 2007. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
- ^ The Jackdaw, September/October. Online at 3ammagazine.com.
- ^ "Stuckists launch their annual protest against the Turner Prize at Tate Britain", Culture24, 29 September 2008. Retrieved 9 December 2009.
- Nairne, Andrew and Greer, Germaine. Stella Vine: Paintings (Modern Art Oxford, 2007) ISBN 978-1901352344 
- Stuckism International web site
- Stella Vine web site
- The Stuckists Punk Victorian at the Walker Gallery
Stella Vine Main articlesThe art of Stella Vine • Talks and collaborations by Stella Vine • Charitable work by Stella Vine • Charles Thomson, Stella Vine, and the Stuckists Own galleryRosy Wilde Galleries shown in See also Stuckism International Main articles Co-founders First group Artists in Europe Artists in UK Artists in US Artists elsewhere Artworks Shows Galleries Related groups Stuckism opposed by Stuckism opposed to Wikimedia Artists' names in italics indicate artists no longer in the movement (as of June 2007)
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