Just over a year ago I stood with my brother by Stonehenge. When you stand next to these stones you are forced to think about pre historic man. What was he doing, how did he do it, why did he do it-how did we get from him to where we are. Those who spend their energies trying to find out whether their great great grandmother was a princess or a pauper are playing cards in comparison.
Similar thoughts and in abundance came in the British Museum when I spent the first of several hours in the Ice Age Art exhibition There are exhibitions you go to because they are there,there are exhibitions you go to that make you feel even weep and there are those that make you think. This one makes you entertain all those emotions.
10000-30000 years ago in the Ice Age our forbears were already 100 millennia out of the animal kingdom. Freezing in their caves, living from hand to mouth, constantly on the move, hunting and gathering-maybe in technical terms they were like the Aussie abos,the Amazonian Indians-whatever. In Europe it was a time when bison roamed and lions hunted. And the people all those years ago were creating art. 20000 years before the Greeks. Talk about the depth of the past.
Models and pictures of women and animals. decorated caves, tools and utensils They were creating they were imaging and imagining ,as the exhibition states they were part of the modern mind. The skills these artists show in perfecting line, form,pattern, perspective and contrast were immediately picked up by among other Picasso who kept models of their work in his studio.
I am a man who in his centrally heated house, fully clothed can barely cut a straight line on a plain piece of paper. So thinking about these artists,these craftsmen who with the crudest of tools produced the finest work, not only makes me feel but admire.
So we had art before we had religion And as religion disappears from many of our lives we are left once again with art. Art as has been said is distilled emotion. Less and less go to church more and more go to art galleries. As Keats so beautifully said, “Beauty is truth,truth beauty; That is all you know an all you need to know.”Cathedrals and historic churches are more popular for their artistic artefacts than they are as places of worship. Does this mean we have gone the full circle?