Art: Cool and Uncool – William Varley Reviews Addicted to Sheep

So, as all cool sentences begin, I think that the best TV programme I saw last was Addicted to Sheep. In many ways this BBC4 documentary

was reminiscent of the French film Être et Avoir about
a remarkable teacher in a school in the remote Auvergne, although a good deal less

winsome. It focused on the lives of the Hutchinson family, tenant farmers in Upper Teesdale. In their remote valley ewes are called google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; “yowes” and
at the children’s school they still sing “There is a green hill far away”. The Hutchinson children help with the lambing, including the src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> gruesome task of dealing with still-born lambs.

What is so admirable about them is that they have an uncomplaining, unflinching attitude

to a life that is harsh and elemental. I doubt whether they have recently visited their nearest gallery, the Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle, you think of? None? I can think of one. A couple of years ago in an exhibition in Rome I saw a small black singlet in the form of a hijab presented by the Egyptian feminist Ghada Amer. Unsurprisingly she now lives in New York.

Another aspect of cool is the cult of novelty. I remember Lawrence Gowing back in the ’60s presenting the imperative to many young artists “to make it new”. At the time it worried me, being far too prescriptive. As someone who believes that originality should be involuntary rather than willed, I would have advised “Make it good”. Giles Auty in The Jackdaw was scathing in identifying the ‘novelty trap’ in which ‘ism’ inexorably succeeds ‘ism’ and thereby invalidates its predecessor. (Auty estimated that about

40 ‘isms’ occurred in the 20th century, each having about 2.25 years of life.) In his irreverent article he suggested that, according to the
novelty narrative, “western art should be read as a kind of art-historical relay