Alice at Night or the long way since Chauvet

Alice at night

The longer I “make art”, the more I am intrigued by the uniquely human need to conjure up coherent images that are  no direct translations of the visual environment as our eyes and brain perceive it.  We know that this strange obsession of humans to conjure up images exists for over 30.000 years. The oldest surviving images known to us painted on walls of a deep bear cave in Chauvet, France, are breathtakingly beautiful. It is remarkable that 30.000 years later we are still able to relate to these early images, maybe even understand their narrative, remarkable considered that these are images of a culture lost in time, as distant from our own world as some imagined extraterrestrial culture. We see  and feel rhythm, movement, beauty – but we do not know why these drawing were created. All we seem to know is that this is our heritage. Maybe this is the cradle of human consciousness – the need to create images and see images in the curving path of a charcoal line.

If we proceed beyond our modern time’s desire to sell most anything in the world , and to employ the power of images to achieve this, we are still creating without truly knowing why we are doing this. Images as marketing tools are so powerful not only because they are almost disturbingly universal due to their pictorial content, but because can be read by anyone who can see, that will reliably be read even when the person “reading” is not aware of the deciphering act. There is no analphabet to images even though they are in their own way as illusionary and abstract as words are to the thing they are representing.

Images are incredibly powerful in influencing our behavior because we are born to react to the furthest abstraction to the original that is still distinguishable from “everything else” (as the most complete description of what the thing is not.) We are wired, so to speak, to read out these abstractions, the blur perceived from the corner of the eye, because every second counts. But that might be true for any moving organism. However, we also obsessively and compulsively creating images, inventing new coherent thought and context.

I think that the human mind though sharing most of its features with other living creatures  – for the last, let’s just say for arguments sake: three percent is completely different. We are doing something that no other living creature will engage in: we are writing new programs. We are creating new worlds. In the beginning was the word. And the word was an image.

Each drawing in itself contains a coherent thought if not a universe. Asked to explain how an image I am either observing or creating is coherent I’d be at a loss. But I know – while I am working on it –  that there is some kind of balance and I continue working towards that balance until I feel I have achieved it or know for sure that there is no way to get there any more. And when I have achieved that balance I know something follows, that there is a consequence to a coherently spelled program, even though I do not know what kind of consequence.

And what fascinates me is not the fact that I have some half cooked up theories about drawing, its origin, its relation to human nature but to observe that this impulse, and may it be explained completely differently, has driven me to drawing for all of my life, or more precisely since I received my first set of rectangular Stockmar beeswax crayons at the age of three and was instantly smitten with the living force of the colorful horses drawn on the metal box. I do remember with vivid clarity that this image on the crayon box instantly conjured up another image, one that I knew I had to draw, one that I have drawn many times since – and I am still looking to find the balance for that one particular image.

I am looking forward to reading your comments!

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