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John Bourne
John Bourne
Born 1943 (1943)
Nationality British
Field Painting
Training Imperial College of Science and Technology
Movement Stuckism
Works Aeroplane, Tea at the Albert Dock

John Bourne (born 1943) is a British artist and painter, living and working in Wales, and a member of the Stuckists art movement.[1] He founded the Wrexham Stuckists group in 2001[2] and has been exhibited in the group's shows since then, including The Stuckists Punk Victorian.[3] He has also taken part in Stuckist demonstrations against the Turner Prize.[4] The subject matter for his paintings, which are done in a simplified style, comes from his memories.[5]


Life and career

John Bourne was born in Staffordshire, England, and spent much of his childhood in Northern Ireland; his father was a Methodist minister in the Yorkshire Dales and passionate about Van Gogh: Bourne says that his earliest memory, aged three, was of his father copying a Van Gogh painting.[6]

John Bourne. Aeroplane

1964–68, Bourne gained a BSc in Physics at the University College of North Wales, followed 1968–71 by an MPhil (Research on Solid State Theory) at the Imperial College of Science and Technology and H. C. Ørsted Institute, Copenhagen.[1]

He worked as a computer programmer, maths teacher and physics lecturer, until 1986, when "I did a Gauguin but not in the South Seas. I walked out. It was tremendous."[1] He has been a full-time artist ever since then. In 1990, he won first prize in the Mostyn Open 1 competition.[1] In 1991, he staged a solo show at Theatr Clwyd, Mold.[5] He has said that the increasing dominance of conceptual art proved obstructive to his own progress as a painter, and this came to a head in November 2001, when his work was rejected from a local exhibition: he began to despair of getting exposure.[7]

He recalled an article about the Stuckists painting group which had appeared in The Sunday Times and responded to them: "I liked the Stuckist Manifesto with its emphasis on painting and artistic integrity. It contained many new ideas and seemed to sum up my disquiet concerning the contemporary art world. Here was a radical, modern movement which championed painting. Some of the artists appeared a little rough and their work at times shocking, but this seemed an advantage if anything."[7]

John Bourne's work (on the left) at The Stuckists Punk Victorian, 2004.

He immediately founded the Wrexham group of the Stuckists art movement, the first group in Wales,[2] along with Elfyn Jones, Neil Robertson and Geraint Dodd,[7]. In 2002, he was included in The First Stuckist International and subsequent shows at the Stuckism International Gallery in London, as well as Stuck in Wednesbury at the Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery.[3] In 2003, founded the Welsh Stuckism International Centre at his home.[8] From 2003, he took part in Stuckist demonstrations against the Turner Prize at Tate Britain.[4]

In 2004, he was one of the fourteen "founder and featured" artists in The Stuckists Punk Victorian held at the Walker Art Gallery for the Liverpool Biennial.[9] Bourne was a co-curator,[3] doing work at the museum to arrange the show.[10] Philip Key of the Liverpool Daily Post commented on the exhibition: "And they are not all lacking artistic skills. John Bourne of the Wrexham Stuckists—there are now groups all over the world—paints some well thought-out subdued portraits including the pleasing foursome in Tea at the Albert Dock."[11]

September 17, 2004: The Stuckists Punk Victorian. Left to right: Charles Thomson, John Bourne, Sir Nicholas Serota, Joe Machine. They are standing in front of Bourne's work (on the right).

Although Tate gallery director, Sir Nicholas Serota was dubbed the "least likely visitor" to the show,[12], which included a wall of work satirising the Tate and Serota himself, such as Stuckist co-founder Charles Thomson's painting, Sir Nicholas Serota Makes an Acquisitions Decision,[13] he did visit, describing the work as "lively",[14] and meeting Bourne and other artists (see photo). In 2005, Serota rejected the Stuckists' offer of a donation of 160 paintings from the Walker show, because "We do not feel that the work is of sufficient quality in terms of accomplishment, innovation or originality of thought to warrant preservation in perpetuity in the national collection".[15] Six of Bourne's paintings were amongst the rejected work.[16]

John Bourne (third from left) at the Stuckist demonstration outside the Turner Prize in 2005 against Tate's purchase of The Upper Room.

A direct consequence of the rejection was a Stuckist media campaign led by Thomson over the Tate's purchase of its trustee Chris Ofili's work, The Upper Room.[17] This included a demonstration about the purchase outside the Turner Prize at Tate Britain in December 2005, where Bourne handed a protest leaflet to Serota[18]—an event which Thomson considers to have precipitated Serota's angry defence of the purchase at the prize ceremony in the evening.[18][19] In 2006 the Charity Commission censured the Tate and ruled that it had broken the law in making the purchase and similar trustee purchases during the previous 50 years.[20] The Daily Telegraph called the verdict "one of the most serious indictments of the running of one of the nation's major cultural institutions in living memory."[21]

Bourne curated a Wrexham Stuckists show at the Oswestry Heritage Centre, Shropshire, in 2005.[3] He was one of the artists in the Triumph of Stuckism, a Stuckist painting exhibition which comprised part of Liverpool Biennial's 2006 programme at Liverpool John Moores University.[3]

He lives with his wife in a red-brick terrace in rural Wales, and has two daughters living in London.[6]


John Bourne. Epsom Kitchen.

Bourne is mostly self-taught.[5] He works in acrylic, oil and ink to produce images, where visual detail is simplified in order to depict memories of both recent life and his Northern Ireland childhood.[5] He said:

I start with memories. You only remember what’s relevant. I make loads of sketches from imagination. I pin the sketches on the wall. I often look at a sketch for months or even years before I see a way to make it into a painting. It usually goes well at first but then I run into problems of composition. I have to make many changes. Sometimes it’s years later that I find a way to finish it. I’m trying to reveal something of a world beyond time and space.[1]

He describes the genesis of his painting Aeroplane as a fear of low-flying aircraft and the experience of seeing an aeroplane—which looked like a World War II Lancaster bomber—coming towards him over the treetops one day.[1] While doing the painting he adjusted the angles in it obsessively "to get it just right".[1]


Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Milner, Frank, ed. The Stuckists Punk Victorian, p.118, National Museums Liverpool 2004, ISBN 1-902700-27-9. Charles Thomson's essay, "A Stuckist on Stuckism", pages 6–30, can be found online at
  2. ^ a b "Stuckism International: Stuckist Groups", Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e "John Bourne", Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Stuckist demos", Retrieved 8 April 2008. Click on link for individual years 2003 – 2006.
  5. ^ a b c d "John W Bourne", Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  6. ^ a b "John Bourne", Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool. Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  7. ^ a b c Bourne, John. "Stuckism: Paint before concept",, April 2002. Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  8. ^ Milner, p.21
  9. ^ "The Stuckists Punk Victorian", Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool. Retrieved 6 April 2008.
  10. ^ Sherwin, Brian. "Art Space Talk: Paul Harvey",, 5 February 2007. Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  11. ^ Key, Philip. "The Stuckists, The Walker", Liverpool Daily Post, 1 October 2004. Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  12. ^ Wright, Michael. "Culture: Agenda", The Sunday Times, 18 January 2004. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  13. ^ Taylor, John Russell. "Lord have Mersey", The Times, 29 September 2004. Retrieved 22 March 2008.
  14. ^ Pia, Simon. "Simon Pia's Diary: Now the Stuckists are on the move", The Scotsman, p.22, 22 September 2004. Retrieved from newsuk, 15 March 2008.
  15. ^ Alberge, Dalya. "Tate rejects £500,000 gift from 'unoriginal' Stuckists", The Times, 28 July 2005. Retrieved 1 February 2008.
  16. ^ "Works offered as a donation and rejected by the Tate gallery", Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  17. ^ O'Keeffe, Alice. "How Ageing Art Punks Got Stuck into Tate's Serota", The Observer, 11 December 2005. Retrieved 1 February 2008
  18. ^ a b "Turner Prize demo: Sir Nicholas Serota at the demo", Retrieved 13 July 2008.
  19. ^ Marr, Andrew. "Notebook" (2nd item), The Daily Telegraph, 7 December 2005. Retrieved 13 July 2008.
  20. ^ Higgins, Charlotte. "How the Tate broke the law in buying a £600,000 Ofili work", The Guardian, 19 July 2006. Retrieved 1 February 2008
  21. ^ Reynolds, Nigel. "Tate broke charity laws by buying art from its trustees", The Daily Telegraph, 21 July 2006. Retrieved 22 April 2008.

External links



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