My recent work is inspired by European Neolithic images from thousands of years ago. While many artists have been inspired by so called “primitive” artwork of either contemporary or ancient cultures, these paintings are inspired by the sophistication and skill of these ancient artists. This current work calls into question the idea that art, and indeed the human race, is progressing such that whatever is created today is superior to what went before. It challenges the idea of an Avant Garde that rejects the misapprehensions of the past, brings art boldly into the present day and charts it’s path into the future.
Neolithic artists were creating images that were as subtle, evocative and strong as anything that has been created since. In addition their art has a power that comes from the total involvement of their minds, bodies and souls in the work, These qualities are missing from the work of contemporary artists who lack a passionate, all-consuming belief in what they are doing.
Another fascinating aspect of European Neolithic art is that many of the themes that appear and re-appear in their work also appear in such disparate and geographically distant cultures as the Australian Aborigines . I am working with the theory that there are powerful images that are integral to the human consciousness and can be used to create a connection to and understanding of the world we find ourselves in.
The structure of societies in the Neolithic era are also of great interest. It is likely that early human kinship was everywhere matrilineal. Though this was hotly disputed for many years, it has recently been supported by genetic and other evidence. (1). It is not my goal to pursue the question of whether or not matriarchy represented an early, mainly prehistoric, stage of human development. What is of interest are images from early human societies in what is now Western & Eastern Europe depicting figures incorporating human female and animal characteristics that are clearly supernatural and/or divine. It is partly the interesting fact that divinity was not always an exclusively masculine attribute and partly that these images ascribe divinity to the natural as well as the human.
Finally, the artwork of the Neolithic era in Europe is of interest to an artist like myself who is a descendant of Europeans. Though the lineage is convoluted, the influence of the images created by Neolithic artists inspired Egyptian artists who in turn influenced Greek artists who in turn influenced modern European artists who set the contemporary visual arts on their current trajectory. But the current trajectory is one of cool intellectualizing, where artwork requires an explanatory page of curatorial interpretation for the viewer to get it. while mind is everywhere omni-present, body & soul and sadly lacking. And the current death-grip of post-modernist academe requires that artists eschew a passionate, all-consuming belief in what they are doing in favour of ironical detachment and cynicism.
So I revel in the immediacy, the power and the beauty of Neolithic art and am using it as an inspiration and guide for my current work. This is why I am proud to be at the fore-front (rear-end?) of the Devant Garde.