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But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
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   Monday, March 31, 2003
Thoughts on contemporary art, probably inspired by describing the Louise Hopkins works to a colleague at work, the one I call the butterfly man. He's 40ish, divorced, takes good care of his physical shape, though I feel he'd be more attractive if he let his hair grow, instead of just jelling it into vertical spikes. Anyway, he has the limited intelligence which is one of the less desirable aspects of engineers: perhaps he likes art, but it has to conform to a set stereotype. He listens with polite curiosity while I describe some of Louise Hopkins' works and then, of course, here is comes, his reaction: "I could have done that". I think that a better reaction is not so much that anyone could have produced those pictures, but whether they would have even had the imagination to consider doing them.

One of the works - a non-Louise Hopkins one, which I just couldn't bring myself to describe - was Lucy Skaer's Venn Diagram (Nefertiti/Rorshach). Even in feverish hallucinations, I couldn't conceive of juxtaposing footballers, snakes, pseudo-symmetrical garden maze designs together with the more symmetrical (by definition) inkblots and an unfamiliar version of Nefertiti's head, as a relief bust. The colleague would have been talking about lack of skill, especially when he saw Hanneline Visnes's The Peacock, a rather sad peacock, tail erect, but each feather firmly differentiated and (I had to admit) bearing absolutely no resemblance to any peacock I have ever seen, and I used to see a lot in England, when they roosted in the trees of the local museum. Next to the peacock was a black, almost pentagonal shape, scribbled over with black biro in straightish lines. It evoked memories of Monet's haystacks, and a certain feeling of distress. What I'm wondering is whether the lack of technical skill balances the imagination and innovation of design? Further, can a picture evoke a strong reaction from the viewer while being a technically accurate representation? Finally, should the medium of the art work contribute to the reaction which the artist aims to produce? I'm thinking of Sally Osborn using watercolour on tissue paper, so fragile that it rustles and shimmers when the viewer walks past, or perhaps the giant snowballs Andy Goldsworthy made once and then photographed at all the stages of melting, so that the first photos were marvellous images of, perhaps stones or sticks held into a solid with the snow, and the last pictures were sad, neglected piles of sticks or stones with no further purpose in life.

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