What's going on around the globe Visual art can sometimes bring understanding where words fail. Pictures work on different levels to words and can express feelings and ideas that we haven't yet managed to rationalise with the linear, linguistic part of our brain. That's why we go blank when someone asks us what a painting we like 'means'. Even if we've painted it ourselves, it's difficult to explain it in words. Like poems and music, a painting's meaning lies in a realm that can't be reduced to prose. The day before the fourth anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, I thought about the part art had to play for people in and around New York directly after the event. That's not the art of professional painters and photographers examining, as Picasso did with Guernica during the Spanish civil war, the psychological and political reality behind the bombings. This is the art of children and regular people, who didn't always know how to voice what they felt in words - the force of the tragedy had struck them dumb. So they painted pictures, made sculptures and left objects which, in some cases, grew into little grottoes of lament. I live in Hoboken, New Jersey, one train stop under the Hudson river from New York. The twin towers of the World Trade Centre used to rise up over Hoboken's waterfront. Even though they were at least a mile across the river, they dominated the view. A little amphitheatre had been built into the river bank on the Hoboken side and this had become a popular place to gaze at the New York skyline opposite. When the second tower collapsed in a haze of dust and a screeching of metal, I watched horrified from this amphitheatre, as did others. People here didn't know what to say directly after the attacks. Few were able to put their feelings about something so horrifying into words. Instead, their feelings manifested themselves in art. Sculptures were the first things to appear in the amphitheatre. Not sculptures of stone, but sculptures made from the driftwood washed up on the banks of the Hudson. All the sculptures had a similar composition: two pieces of driftwood of equal sizes would be placed side by side to represent the twin towers. The wood was then angled to face the smoking debris of the World Trade Centre. Sometimes the wood had been worn flat by the water, sometimes it seemed to be a new twig or even a small branch. Sometimes people used metal or other debris washed in by the tide. Then came the pictures. Some local schools thought that painting might be a way for children to come to terms with the event. These were remarkably frank - flat representations of the towers with airplanes sticking out of the sides, or flying towards them. Many of the pictures had matchstick people falling off the sides. Soon after, miss-you notes to the deceased - Hoboken lost 52 people that day - appeared under stones, often accompanied by flowers and candles. Over the weeks that followed, these grew into little shrines as others placed objects and poems. I've never written a single word about my feelings about the World Trade Centre bombings before this article. Like many other people, my response is too complicated - or confused - to be stripped down, analysed and rebuilt in words. When I approach the subject, words still fail me. The artworks created by the people of Hoboken expressed my feelings much better than I'll ever be able to as a writer.