Cave Symbols

I was particularly drawn to what are referred to as "signs" or symbols which may be the earliest known marks of all. Previously, researchers and artists had concentrated on the pictorials, figurative drawings and paintings of mostly animals, ones that were hunted and those who were most feared. The "signs" translate into contemporary abstract image making partially because they have a universal quality. Starting with the line, they progress through dots, cubes, penninforms (drawn here), ovals, claviforms and finally the vulva. These marks, made by the flickering light of a fat lamp appear to be moving in the caves. What I have drawn here is inspired by my experience in the caves - in this case penninforms drawn with charcoal and pigments found in the Niaux cave. I have lit the drawing with a flickering light, in a similar way early Homo Sapiens drew deep in the ancient caves.

I went specifically to view, first hand, drawings made by early Homo Sapiens from approximately 40,000 BP, the very oldest marks to date. This trip is the next step in my inquiry into the universal human urge to mark - from ancient time through contemporary art making. The trip was strenuous: six days of hiking through rice patties, over uneven, rough ground, ending in 10-50' rock climbs up the mountains to explore the ancient caves. It was a profound experience and it has already reorganized my conceptual approach to mark making.

 

Considering the literature, my own direct experience with ancient drawing and painting, my Unintentional Drawings, the Ground Zero graffiti and my Cave Drawings, it has become clear to me that the universal urge to mark is actually a universal urge to connect, through mark-making, to something deep within us, possibly to a higher power or spiritual world outside of ourselves. The universality is strongly suggested by the fact that over 40,000 years ago Homo Sapiens evolved out of Africa and migrated to both Europe and Asia and arrived to make the same symbol: the hand stencil.

Namibia, Africa

Sulawesi, Indonesia

Lascaux, France

Craig Kraft