Some remaining paint on a prehistoric palet in the museum, creates a wonderful organic pattern. Makes me think of satellite photo's. Inspiring images.
Today in the library studying the cave of Altamira in Spain. I found radiating engravings just like I did them a week ago, and a remark of the famous Abbey Breuil that it might represent a meteor. Makes me feel connected.
A visit to the National museum of Prehistory in les Eyzies de Tayac.
Different layers in times of human occupation.
On a very rainy day I did the long drive a little bit north from Bordeaux to the Pair non Pair Cave. It is a very ancient site. Even before the Cro Magnons came to Europe it has been inhabited by people. It is a rare decorated cave which wasn't only a sanctuary but also a living place. There are engravings as old as those in the Chauvet cave over 25.000 years, probably around 30.000 years old. They used to be painted as well but the colours have gone through the ages.
No complex webs of lines here but clearly delineated and styled figures in perfect perspective. I loved the horse bending his head backwards twice in the same position. Some are positioned face to face like a male and a female deer, touching to see the communication between the animals.
That did strike me before the animals are often represented in herds, different kinds of relationships among them are shown, different kind of behaviours and typical positions. Forms of violence or struggle are extremely rare.
May be that is what in that incomprehensible way attracts me in this art in these cultures the harmonious relationship with nature. I have a 'memory' or dream, of living like that. And a deep feeling that that is exactly what life is supposed to be: a joyful exploration and celebration of the beauty of nature and the many delicate wonders which it holds. In prehistoric times animals outnumbered humans by far, so naturally they are shown as the most impressive inhabitants of this planet. Nowadays it would look different, times did change and those wild animal herds are not in our daily view anymore but the principle is still the same and that is what I like to show and communicate in my "cave paintings"; the beauty of nature organising itself.
What was interesting to see how daily life was taking place trough those many many centuries people that people did live there and why it was such a well suited place to live. There was water during in from one site in the cave and leaving a few meters further on the other side after crossing a kind of natural bath tub. What a luxury in ice age times!
And the there a fire place and there a sleeping place or a place to make your stone tools. An entrance to small for cave bears and easy to defend against cave lions. Place enough for around 20 people. You can easily make the picture when you see it.
Afterwards I did visit "the museum of Aquitaine in Bordeaux" because there they show some of the pieces found in the Pair non pair cave. Among it was the remains of a flute. I would love to hear someone play a flute on those ancient sacred places. And the concept of music still remains strongly present for me.
Another famous treasure of this museum are the "Venus" sculptures found in Laussel. Voluptuous women, either pregnant for the xth time or at least mothers of a whole serie of children. A sculpted beautiful male torso from the same time is rather thin. it is from the Gravetian era, approximately 25.000 years ago and found not far from where I stay in Les Eyzies de Tayac.
What I liked about the museum is that you can easily travel thought time, You walk trough prehistoric times to the bronze age with menhirs and dolmen to the Roman age with his own monumental beauty to the Middle ages with mixed early Christian and pagan sculptures to more known modern times. The layering of time and the interconnectedness of those time layers keeps fascinating me. And what a joy to be able to time travel and visit briefly and lightly all those different times, all present now.
Today I discovered this article: http://www.musicandmeaning.net/issues/showArticle.php?artID=3.2
which made me very excited. The author Iegor Reznikoff did exactly what I have been fantasising about and would love to do explore the prehistoric caves with sound.
Some years ago I passed a little cave on a walk and went in not too far just till it became really dark and did play with sounds, singing. It was a very intense experience. The sound becomes so tangible and physically intense. And all the senses become extremely sharp in the dark. Since that time I have been waiting for another cave to continu that exploration.
Some time later I did find some interesting information on archeological research by studying the acoustic qualities of prehistoric sites, mostly in the UK.
Here in France I found some information about musical instruments used since prehistoric times. Flutes made out of bones, lithopones which are quite fascinating too, and some other instruments. But this finding of today is about researching the caves with sound and investigating the relationship with the density of the paintings and drawings. And the philosophical background is closely connected with my former experience in art therapy and psychotherapy.
Can't wait to continu to learn more about this.
Today my third visit to the Font de Gaume cave. I did not expect much because I have been there, I have seen it. Only wanted to go back to feel the energy of that place again and to reconnect with it to help me staying focussed on the caves and the prehistoric arts when I am painting. I was wishing to be there just in silence in the dark to feel.
But again it was an intense experience, I did discover new things, was emerged into it. Time passed by extremely quick. Every painting or engraving is a universe in itself taking me along, absorbing me. Again I am very much moved by the delicateness of the lines and the superpositions.
Seeing is a learning process
And what you know and are familiar with you see more easy.
The more I did study the prehistoric caves and have seen the art, the more I recognise.
It stays difficult to really look at what is there and not too easily project what you expect, or seeing things which are not there but are carried in the back of your mind. The darkness of the caves makes projection very easy.
The individual paintings and engravings are impressing but also the whole and the interconnection between them.
There the most dominant image are the painted bisons, rows of them, but not all going in the same direction, they adapt themselves to the shape of the rocks. 4 rows on one wall, going up very high. It is like a herd but they behave not like animals in a herd. And then superimposed on the bisons but less visible, engraved mammoths and abstract forms. Sometimes the mammoth and bison are merged together in a form which could be either one of them, like a composite mythological creature. Their clearly drawn eyes look at you like we did look at them.
And the reindeer with the antlers so soft and precisely painted.
And the mystery of conceive forms which become volumes of the bodies in the light of a torch.
The feeling of the cave is very nice, welcoming, soft, friendly. You do feel a lot of beings there. I mean so many people feel being watched and not being alone in those caves.. They are still inhabited in a way. Often people have an urge to bring a lot of light and talk all the time otherwise they can not bear the feeling of being there. Mostly this is done unconscious so. But anyway whatever spirits might in habit that place they felt very soft, and friendly to me. A very nice place to be, like being with good friends where you can feel at home.
There is seeing and feeling and there is hearing. I did hear a little bit about a kind of archeological research which fascinates me and that is working with exploring the acoustic qualities of places to explore their meaning and use. It is not yet a common practice but I do feel strongly attracted to that.
Back home I could finely finish a painting where I have been working on for a couple of days.
In the library of the "Pole International du Préhistoire" I saw a fascinating documentary last week of the research of Chantal Wolkiewiez. You can find some information about her work on her blog. She has investigated over 130 prehistoric sites and caves and shows how all of them are located in a specific cosmic alignment. The sunset or sunrise at summer or winter solstice or equinoxes just hits specific points, or the entrance of a cave. Animals represented there are shown as they are in that particular season,with the particular behaviours of that season.
Also seeming meaningless dots on a piece of bone found there turn out to have been placed in the exact position as where the moon rises on that location for a whole month. So those simple dots represent a lunar calendar.
And most surprisingly she shows how the animals represented in a specific part of the famous Lascaux cave are located in a almost exact alignment as the fixed stars of the Zodiac at that time, 17.000 years ago. Other paintings represent other star constellations.
This is fascinating. How could they know that so long ago? How could they observe it, remember it and translate it in the right proportion in their paintings? Modern representations of the zodiac don't have that. They are not represented with the right distance between the stars of which the signs are made of.
Scientists studying the cave paintings have often remarked that the earth where the animal is standing or lying on is never represented. The animals are floating can be represented in different directions, although the majority is represented in the normal vertical position. When they are connected with star constellations then that is very logical.
Being in the darkness and silence of a cave often feels like being out of normal space and time, quite similar to being out in the universe.
I assume that the painters did have visions of the stars while being inside the cave.
I did try to connect with that experience while painting.
Studying the research of Lorblanchet today on the cave art in the Quercy area. Especially the Pech Merle cave and the "macaroni" signs and traces found there. They are signs with no clear meaning, made directly with fingers in soft clay parts on the cave ceilings and side walls. Again consisting of several layers on top of each other. They could deduce that a part was made by someone with at least a height of 180cm who has taken a risky position to reach, touch and work on the ceiling. They assume that it has been a man, but I am 180 too, so you never know.
Looking at them you are in a very direct physical way "in touch" with the fingers of those people long ago.
I liked Lorblanchets final interpretation: " tracés dynamiques décrivant l'emergence des formes et la naissance du monde organisé"; dynamic traces describing the emergence of forms and the birth of an organised world. He also mentioned the fluid character and apparent joyful, playfulness.
That is how I feel till now when I paint with my hands and fingers in the course of the earth, with all the impressions of the caves I have seen and felt, the things I have found on books and Dvd's in mind, blending everything in the experience of painting, searching for new forms to emerge, waiting for birth.