When Clement Greenberg declared that "inspiration is the only factor that cannot be copied", he laid down a charter that has become a dead-end shibboleth for a whole culture. In painting and sculpture, the use of skill has been relegated to a marginal activity. In the applied arts, craft has become secondary to the ideas expressed by objects. Conception, it is said, has nothing to do with execution; and execution (mere making) can take care of itself. Skills are not merely mechanical and easily learned: they threaten self-expression, creativity, imagination. Art has become a quick fix for commenting upon contemporary society; theory rules practice as never before.;Peter Dormer's highly reasoned demolition of the arrogance, confusion and inconsistencies of these ideas shows how far removed they are, not merely from the art of all past eras, but even from the great artists of the 20th century - such as Henri Matisse or Giorgio Morandi - whose apparent spontaneity was accompanied by a complex, rich expertise. In an account that draws widely on the entire spectrum of contemporary art, craft and design, Dormer shows how process and content are interdependent and mutually enriching; how the artist can use the communal culture of discovery, invention, innovation, technique and insight to transform his or her own self-expression; and how the difference between human and machine skills remain as clear as ever in the computer era.;This essay offers potential solutions to the impasse which many feel afflicts the contemporary plastic arts, and is aimed at those involved in fine or applied arts, or at all interested in the issues they raise.