Letter: Art and nature

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Before Ray Hutchins expressed his emotions all over the steps of the Tate Galley ("Dirty protest marks Tate's Turner winner", 11 December), he should, being an artist, have reflected that until the development of the chemical dye-stuffs industry in the middle of the last century, painters, including presumably those he admires most, were constrained to use only naturally occurring substances.

Thus squashed beetles, and the secretions of various molluscs, bound together by the products of the hen or the bee, were among the raw materials of many a priceless work of art. Even the brush, which perhaps Mr Hutchins from time to time brings to a delicate point between his lips, may contain the perianal hairs of a medium-sized rodent.

To object to Chris Ofili's use of elephant dung is to confuse matter and form. Rather we should wonder what the world has lost because this highly proteinaceous and plastic material was not available to Michelangelo.


London N12