“The Innocent Eye Test” (1981) is perhaps the best-known work of Mark Tansey and one of his most successful. It is painted in a monochromatic sepia- all his pictures are monochromes, cyan, cadmium, red, grey or sepia. The canvas raises interesting and pertinent questions about the nature of representation, an issue at the centre of aesthetic discourse in both modern and post-modern eras.
The picture depicts a cow that has been led into a museum gallery. Leaning against the wall and unveiled at the moment of encounter is a famous painting by Paulus Potter of a young bull. In the distance is a grain stack by Monet. The cow is being confronted with two of its desires, food and sex, sex being offered first.
The viewer may think what will its response be? Will its eye, innocent of theory and history, see the young bull as its soul mate? Or will it see nothing but a flat surface with oil paint of different colours arranged on it? Will it be confused by the conventions of representation? Or is the innocent eye of the cow equivalent to the high modernist eye that proposes that what you see is what you see, a large flat object leaning against the wall?
For more information about Mark Tansey
Mark Tansey: Art and Source
By Peterson Sims
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