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IN THE garage of his small bungalow on the Norfolk coast, the artist Peter Rowles-Chapman dabbed away in oils at his easel. He was finishing an equine work for which he is locally in much demand, this one a chestnut horse with a white blaze.

A week's work at least, he reckoned, for which, after expenses and gallery commission, he might manage to pocket around [pounds sterling]400.

About 130 miles away, in a vaulted studio off London's Old Kent Road, the artist's sculptor nephews, the brothers Dinos and Jake Chapman, were also putting the finishing touches to their latest works.

The floor was littered with the dismembered bodies and mutations of child-sized shop-window mannequins, like a scene from a village of the damned. The figures were of indeterminate sex but probably meant to be aged about eight.

Male genitals sprouted from heads as horns, women's private parts had replaced ears and mouths. Disgusting titles liberally using four-letter expletives had already been pencilled in on some of the subjects.

In a few weeks these latest `works of modern art' will be on their way to galleries and exhibitions all over Europe. Paris, Turin, Florence, Milan . .

. a triumphant follow-up to the Chapman brothers' summer exhibition at the largely publicly funded Institute of Contemporary Art.

Millionaire adman and art connoisseur Charles Saatchi, who runs a private gallery in North London, has paid around [pounds sterling]100,000 for one of the works. It is called Tragic Anatomies, an arrangement of 20 child-doll mutations wearing nothing but trainers in a garden setting.

Suddenly paedophile and deviant art is in the news, dominated by the Hayward Gallery's plan to stage the largest yet exhibition of sado-masochistic photographs by gay American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who died of Aids.

It has emerged that after talks with the police the Hayward has withdrawn from the exhibition one Mapplethorpe picture that was causing particular offence. Entitled Rosie, it shows a little girl of three sitting explicitly open-legged with no underwear.

Similarly, the Victoria Miro Gallery in Mayfair's Cork Street, which vigorously promotes the Chapman brothers, has had to withdraw one of their pieces.

After a complaint from a member of the public the gallery was visited by officers from the Metropolitan Police Clubs and Vice Unit and agreed to ensure that a work depicting a child-figure in a state of arousal could not be seen from the street.

With depressing predictability the liberal establishment has sprung to the defence of this `art'. In a front-page article in the Independent newspaper a woman columnist suggested that public disquiet over the drift towards disgusting art could mean we were becoming paranoid.

`We may be more aware of paedophilia than we were in 1976,' it shrilled supercilously, `but does that mean that none of us can see an image because a tiny minority may find it arousing?'

Some would find that an odd question in a world disturbed by increasing violence and abuse against children.

The Chapman brothers' work, it must be said, is not sado-masochistic. It attracts other descriptions, such as pornographic and disgusting.

It appears, however, to dazzle and delight the smug assortment of souls who run the world of modern art. The Chapmans are poised to become rich from it.

The sculptors' uncle Peter, who has `just bobbed along making a very modest living' all his life from his conventional works since leaving the Royal Navy, hasn't any doubts about his nephews' work.

`The work's paedophile, all right, that's dead right,' he said. `It's totally outrageous and offensive to a lot of people - it offends like mad and perhaps is even intended to cause disgust. I don't know what's in their minds, except I do know my nephews are a couple of smashing and very normal blokes. …