What was the reason people first felt the urge to make marks? Some of the first cave paintings were found quite by accident, many metres below the earth, by explorers. What compelled these ancient people to make images upon the cave walls? Was it some kind of prayer, or offering to the earth? Or was it a place where they could dream and bring forth new presences? 14,000-16,000 years ago, before farming, before tools, hunter- gatherers left a trace. They were ice age artists before there was any idea of an audience, where nowadays we are so involved in our meta language.
In Niaux in the Pyrenees are more cave paintings and Perch Nerle in the Lot valley some even earlier cave paintings dating back 28,000 years, were created by human breath and a spitting technique. Paintings of horses and stencils of hands created by this technique of spitting pigment in minute consistent quantities around the outline of the hand. Black dots adorn horses. Perhaps the black dots symbolise the spirit of the horse.
A Temple of Nature. An elemental process. Fire for light, charcoal from the fire made the pigment. We touch the rock and make the rock eternal by tracing around the hand. Leaving a trace while we are so lightly here. We exist in time, we are subject to time and we will not have time.
Art makes us present. It is the absolute being in the Now. Here, Now. Art takes self reflection. Neanderthal cave art is 66,000 years old, found in El Castillo, Spain. In Indonesia they were making art at exactly the same time. A collective unconsciousness.. The same hand stencils thousands of miles apart. Leaving a mark.
The indigenous art of Australia in Kimberly is possibly the oldest found art in the world. Their spiritual beliefs governed their relationship with the land. A moment of lived time. The Art of Australia is not found in caves, but covered rocks. The art there is more delicate, complex, pictorial, symbolic. Sensitively revealing different relationships. Plants and their relationship to humans. A celebration. Images of the Creation Mother. The Sacred Feminine.
Art is trying to understand our place in the world. A human need to express the inexpressible. To go beyond the horizon and leave an ephemeral presence. A present-absence. A moment of lived time against the truth of geological time. In Australia, rock art is still a part of life.
Art is intrinsic to who we are; it is our better self and expresses a joy in being, a connection with all living things and the imaginative, to mark our existence. Through art, we are being fully ourselves.
We are creating dream worlds, weaving dreams with our hands and eyes. Our consciousness is expressing a new way, and through the audience or the intention, it is amplified to improve, heal or transmute. It is alchemy and it is balm.
To be a part of my art workshops in Spain, visit: www.art-retreat-spain.com
Some thoughts on art and creative impulses gleaned from watching Anthony Gormley talk about How Art Began, a documentary of the same name.