Saturday, July 14, 2007

The spirit world of Art

Through history people have been afraid of the powers from artists as they believed their recording could bring the under-spirit world to life.

If you place your hands over your eyes and keep them there for sometime, you should experience a hallucinating state producing patterns of black and white checkerboard vibrations or black random spots that fade to white. Remember this.

Today, the BBC aired the programme “Imagination” on the subject of visual symbols and its connection to the origins of our civilization over thirty thousand years ago. Derived from the oldest paintings in the history of mankind, the daughter of archaeologist Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola in 1879 made a discovery which unlocked man’s mystic past. The young girl set eyes on the Altamira cave in Spain exposing a gallery of prehistoric paintings of various animal species combined with geometric patterns and shapes. Archaeologists were puzzled over the patterns and the documentary tries to unlock the secret of its meaning. What were these prehistoric artist's references ?

In its synopsis, the narrator Nigel Spivey attempts to decode the mystery by comparing the symbols found in Bushmen paintings on cliffs in South Africa. The answer, he theorizes may be the experiences of death in a ritual communal trance to heal the sick with help from spirits in the underworld. The tribal artists represented the moment by reproducing the spiritual outcome as a visual anecdote of geometric patterns superimposed over the ailing livings. This trance, between life and death scholars hypothesize, is the hallucinating state in which these unrecognized patterns were induced in the mind and then transferred into paintings as with those patterns discovered in Europe. Yet these geometric shapes are an illusion in the brain due to the deprivation of light and by simply covering your eyes for a short time, you can see why.

Then paintings moved into sculpture and from sculpture it brought meaning by its symbols and cuneiform to communicate.

When cave paintings stopped over twelve thousand years ago, the image transformed three-dimensionally and thus set the genesis of civilization and were humans began to cultivate wheat and domesticate animals. And as Mr. Spivey concludes, our world as we see it could not exists if not for our ancestors who had a revelation with lines, shapes and colours. They could capture the world as they experienced it.

In all, these prehistoric artists gave a visual narrative of their daily life and painted their cognitive understanding of it unto the surfaces of walls. And like oral traditions in storytelling and folklore, the mystery of the underworld, of bravery, cowardliness, of life, death. It just might be the basic survival instincts Homo Sapiens taught their offspring through etching, elaborate markings or calling. Yet the puzzling question of them all is of man and his gift to reproduce on a physical plane from memory an image whatever he observes? See the Bushman cave art as thebookmann header

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