This was a goody. Dr Gill Cook, of the British Museum, who curated the hit exhibition of the same title, came down to Brighton and talked for nearly 2 hours (including Q&A session). She was great.
She started with those cave paintings we’ve all seen, about 40,000 years to 30,000 years old, including hands revealed by spraying a mouthful of paint around a hand pressed to a stone surface, thus creating a negative print. Then lots of wonderful tundra animals realistically portrayed (in the south of France – I mean glacial, man!)
At this point she said this art had not suddenly appeared, but was the work of people who had been developing their art for thousands of years since they first appeared in southern Africa about 200,000 years ago – and that was us – Homo sapiens.
Then she showed us enough examples to convince me that this was art, sorry, I mean ART. As she said, these carved mammoth ivory animals were no mere whittlings, but the product of hundreds of hours careful carving. So they had meaning to the people who made them. ART mate, that’s what it is. Gill said that he same part of the brain that does art does communication by language – so we no doubt developed art critics in parallel with the artists (I said that).
Best of all was the point that art is not reproducing the visible, but making it visible – not sure what this means but it made me certain that my own clumsy efforts need to be more about catching what I value, rather than what I think others see.
She closed by stating that art is an integral part of being human, it is not something learnt, but integral to our nature. Whilst its up you can see her and some of the exhibition here.