The Origins of Wall Art
Upper Palaeolithic period Art
40,000 bc- 9,000bc humans were becoming more sophisticated in culture, weapons, tools, we had ritual burials which means the capacity for abstract thought on religion.
Based on DNA studies modern man began out of Africa-middle east- Australia
Rock art was used as communication.
Evidence in France- Font de Gaume, Les Eyzies (fig1), people did not live in caves- ritual space not part of everyday-special. Venus of Laussel (fig2) Dordogne Gravettian 21,000bc. Caves of Lascaux are closed for visitors now.
People could draw very well from observation from very early on in our development. innately human.
We drew animals that we were hunting – Woolly Mammoths, huge mammals, wild horses and cattle, forest elephants, deer, enemies- cave lions and bear. We lived in open tundra, short cool days.
Altamira, Standing bull bison 10,000bc (fig3)
Anthropologists have discovered a lot about how hunting tribes work.
Textiles, body paint, the wall is what is left. Highly trained accurate artists made this art, not simply hunting list or record of a hunt. Pigments are made of Iron oxides burnt bone burnt charcoal, soot, shells for palette mixed pigment with fat or water
The technique of blowing, blowing paint onto the wall, over hand is seen.
Lascaux Cave Hall of Bulls Paleolithic 40,000-10,000 BCE (fig4) -evidence of rubbing using pads of moss, brushes (hair on sticks) sophisticated methods of painting
Why did they make these? Links to hunting- recording story of a hunt? Teaching purpose? Passing information? – Bison falling, an event. Keeping a tally? Doesn’t always add up to hunting reasons as they did not eat all of these animals that were depicted
The Sorcerer from Les trois frères Cave- sorcery, prayer, ritual, hope, totemic, hunters feeling in control, wish fulfilment, wishful thinking about how animals will be caught. Particular parts of the cave may be better luck, more fruitful, magic as some parts have drawings overlapping each other
Abstract shapes within drawings Altamira Cave 10,000 bc- thinking it is related to Shamanism- animal connection, charmer, sensory deprivation in cave, starve and magic herbs, hallucinations- Shaman speaking to the animals.
Produce shapes if starved of light- abstract shapes in eyes- records of what Shaman has seen
Cave is mother earth- meet the underworld- Swimming deer of Lascaux or appearing through the wall
Deliberate use of wall surface- animal spirit, many ways to read the images
Wall surface active, can be an important part
Active surface, read according to
Its position in the cave, the use of relief, the magic of appearance and disappearance, aspects of illusionism/abstraction
Calligraphic power of information/image as ritual
Performative uses of space/image/lighting
Painting on the wall
Simon spoke briefly about two mural sites that he visited and had difficulty accessing in Italy:
Villa of the Mysterious, Pompeii – Rite of Dionysus
Outside the town of Pompeii- the Villa has been carefully restored in places, very difficult to get to containing 5 rooms of Fresca’s
Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence
Small part of the larger building- Masaccio, The Brancacci Chapel Florence- quieter side of the city. Difficult to access also not as obvious as a space of importance- entranceway never finished- odd looking building, one is expecting a grand façade. Visitors enter through a back alley entrance of clerics and emerge in the main hall of the Nave.
The chapel was commissioned by Felice Brancacci between 1423-1425 a successful silk merchant- entrance to heaven, very small chapel space
Masaccio, The Expulsion of Adam and Eve and The Tribute Money, Brancacci Chapel, Florence
Think about how the effect of placement on the wall has on the viewer. No real order but maybe Adam and Eve to walk in and begin. You become Adam/Eve as the viewer.
Wall drawing in Brian O’ Doherty’s work- touching the wall.
Smudge Mel Bochner, measuring spaces.What its like to walk into the room, his eye level marked. Room Series Eye Level Cross section estimated and measured 1971, Blue and Brown coloured pencil on the wall
Measurement and orienting the space, string and measurement
Mell Bochner Three Ideas + Seven Procedures
Carolee Schneeman at the same time late 60s early 70s whole bodies involved in creating the drawing. How to reach out and touch the world
Rope Drawings Brian O’ Doherty- Christina Kennedy talking at 1pm on Friday in Crawford Gallery (cancelled due to snowstorm)
Francesca Woodman- using the wall as prerogative- might disappear into the wall, the wall as the protagonist.
Beuys elides writing and drawing in his performances Plight 1985
Room 1 cannot hear, room 2 piano
Laurance Weiner removing plaster from wall exists as an instruction
Conical Intersect Paris, 1975 Gordon Matta-Clark, Buzz-saw
Richard Wilson also cuts holes into things
Sol Le Witt typical of wall drawings use of geometry at the time- list of instructions, ephemeral
Mass MoCA Drawing Retrospective 2008-2033
One, Here, Now