Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Birthplace of Art

Watch "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" by Werner Herzog.  Its a very simple and straight forward documentary about the Chauvet Cave in France which contains the oldest know cave paintings in the world.  They date back to 32,000 to 30,000 years ago.  To give you some perspective Ancient Egypt began around 5,000 years ago.  I can't help but to want to visit the valley where this cave is in France to meditate on the birthplace of art.

Also, oddly enough just after I watched this film the BBC began broadcasting their series "History of the World in 100 Objects" (  All of these fantastic stories about the dawn of art and culture has stirred a fantastic imagination inside of me.  It has given me yet another form of art to juxtapose with contemporary art.  I ask this question to you:  Is it possible to make such authentic and honest paintings like the ones in the Chauvet Cave today?  I doubt those people created these paintings for any reason other than fascination and amazement.  But perhaps it's an unfair question because is assumes you can compare cave painting to contemporary painting.  I'll never forget the conversation I had with a friend who complained to me that it is plain wrong to categorize King Tut's Sarcophagus and Gerhard Richter's abstract paintings under the same umbrella of "Art".
Depiction of the head
of a Bison on top of
the pubic area of a
female (which happens
to be the first depiction
of the human form in

After watching the Herzog film and viewing the incredible images they'd taken of the paintings it occurred to me that these earliest forms of visual art contain within them all of the elements and principles of design.  It feels as though these paintings are simultaneously the beginning and end of art.  Within them we find the entire visual vocabulary that gave expression to human emotions for thousands and thousands of years.  Similarly, I found in an old New Yorker article that after a visit to the cave of Lascaux, Picasso reportedly said, "they've invented everything".

A few weeks back I asked a friend "if you had to choose one work of art to represent all of humanity which would it be?"  I now know the answer to this question.  

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