The Power Of The Image - Part 2

Friday, 5 October 2007 4 responses

The cave paintings at Cheveaux are possibly the only way we have of understanding the mindset of those people over 30,000 years ago. Yet also we need to understand their mindsets in order to fully understand the significance of the work. In this essay I am trying to plumb those depths.

The first thing the enormity of these caves tell us is that these people were a successful population. They enjoyed a surplus enabling certain workers such a artists to devote most of their time to painting. The implication is of a society which was fairly well organised with the knowledge and tools to build load bearing structures. Unfortunately there seems to be very little in the way of surviving artifacts to tell us much more.

The local environmental conditions can tell us so much. The land was probably steppe tundra and was at a maximum by 22,000BC according to Wikipedia. That is ideal hunting territory for a fairly mobile population. Yet at Cheveuax there is a cave which suggests anything but. So were there perhaps pockets of warmth where agriculture might flourish? At least we can be sure that food was plentiful.

So what might we reasonably assume the mindset of those times to be like. First of all they didn't have the memories of present day mankind.In a sense they had an innocence due to there being little in the way of a collective memory.The Great War which brought about the Existentialist Philosophy of writers such as Camus was not somewhere at the back of their minds, neither did they have great cities to contend with their equilibrium. There would very likely be a stillness and peace about the environment.

We might also conclude they were a peaceable people: they gave their surplus too art rather than the things of war. Perhaps they had not yet been threatened by other tribes wishing to enjoy the benefits of that land. Possibly there was still room for population growth. It is thought that the desire for dominance was a much later more northern concept.

The immense scale of these cave paintings at Chev aux suggest a great vision, or desire to find expression for a less tangible experience, awareness or feeling. It could well have been religious. It is very notable that for the most part the paintings do not include human being. Possibly there was a taboo against such depiction, but I suggest even more likely in that state of innocence they didn't have the self awareness which is very much a part of modern life.

If we consider these cave painters with our own understanding of the creative process then we might assume that this work was part of their searching. They had not entirely seen the end before they began the work. The creative process brings change to most of our well laid plans as we work. The artist will work in order to bring about their own sense of wholeness and hope thereby the bring this to others also.

So why were depictions of these magnificent beasts so important to these people? It has been said they thought these animals to be their Gods. Other trains of thought suggest these early humans thought in terms of the Sky God. However, I don't think it is good to make assumptions. It is possible to think of these animals as having some qualities of a God. They had massive strength but also the freedom to move about that tundra as they wished, to be self supporting and at one with their environment. Is it possible that these people considered those animals to have a secret which they did not. Would they not wish to know what manner of thing that was.

Mike Fone

4 responses: to “ The Power Of The Image - Part 2 so far...

  • Anonymous 5.10.07

    Very interesting Mike and well written. I love exploratory thinking and you do it well. Great job!

  • Anonymous 6.10.07

    Thanks for the compliment Boyd. I am pushing on with this, trying to dig up some present day thinking. I've looked at animal consciousness in the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy to find that nobody knows a thing, and academics just argue.


  • Anonymous 6.10.07

    Boyd, I've just had a look at your article entitled Design Ideas. I think you will have a good understanding of where I am taking this line of thought. You may appreciate I fully understand what you mean by creatives being in the flow.


  • Anonymous 10.10.07

    Mike, thanks for stopping by my blog. It is very interesting when you find a "kindred soul" as Robert Henri called it.