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‘What Do Artists Do All Day?’

This BBC Four programme was the most delightful half an hour of televisual joy last night, featuring the artist Norman Ackroyd. The son of a Leeds butcher, he is best known for his etchings of the British landscape, most particularly the rocks that surround our islands, jutting dramatically out of the sea. We watched him at work, at his home-cum-printing factory in an old warehouse building in Bermondsey. Then he took us to lunch at his favourite ‘cafe’, a tapas bar nearby. He declined a glass of wine with lunch saying that drinking and etching is like drinking and driving; acid and fingers don’t mix.

His work has an amazing quality. Rooted in place, but drifting off into abstraction. The blog could post his work all day long. I have a new life ambition now, to own an Ackroyd etching. Now there’s something worth working for.

Loch – Norman Ackroyd

*Pulls sorry face*

I watched this programme on BBC Four the other day about the link between emotions and the brain; a preoccupation that acted as a diversion a few weeks ago, as I went through nearly every emotion trying to produce those wretched assignments.

One of the things they demonstrated with an experiment involving a brain scan was that people have different levels of empathy – nothing you didn’t already know if you ever looked at David Cameron’s fake sympatico face. In the experiment, people are first asked to fill out a questionnaire about how empathetic they think they are and then they have a brain scan to test their empathetic response. Turns out many people think they are super empathetic but the brain scans show otherwise – there is no corresponding brain activity. So we can surmise that humans learn to respond and pull a sorry-looking face as appropriate in certain situations: like when one cuts budgets, but it is not always a truly empathetic response.

And the key to empathy. Well it is experience. If you have experienced something yourself and someone else then experiences it and tells you all about it, all the same parts of the brain light up as did when you were actually having your own experience. So without suffering yourself, you can’t properly empathise with another person’s pain. Don’t worry though *David, you can carry on practising your face in the mirror.

Re the surtitle: from the way the Memphis Mafia walk I am pretty sure they’ve all got more than one shoe *crosses finger*

*Just in case I come off as an non-empathetic old cow with my recent bellyaching about our PM I would like to add this footnote. I know Mr Cameron has known his own personal pain and tragedy and I am sure I do feel sorry for him in that regard; this post is purely to do with his political role and the faces he concocts when trying to feel your pain in economic hardship, usually combined in a deadly cocktail with long-term unemployment, garnished with lack of opportunity.