What is it about the French that seem to instinctively know their way around a paint brush? We’ve all seen some historic or pre-historic cave of rock painting art and it usually resembles stuff that your pre-schooler would bring home to hang on your fridge. I mean come on neo-paleolithic artists…that’s the best you could do, a bunch of rudimentary stick figures surrounding some cartoonish looking buffalo?? You can do better than that? I mean watch a YouTube video or go to one of those paint and sip girlie events beforehand, before you commit your art to caves??!!! Geez. But these paintings in the Lascaux cave complex ain’t that, they are fully formed colorful works of art deep underground in the South West part of France smack dab between Lyon and Bordeaux near a town called Motignac.
I’ve never been to these caves but like all things I discover about the world these days, I heard it on some podcast, Stuff You Should Know, about caving. I’ve been in a couple of caves, even getting to go on a caving outing in Europe in Luxembourg with helmets, ropes, all that shit, with the Duster back in the day. But what fascinates me about these paintings is the commonality we have with people 17K years ago square in the Upper Paleolithic era, whatever that is. Something drove those people into those caves feeling the need to express their world with dye or rock coloring showing their livestock, their world, a re-creation of the world as they experienced it with torches below ground. Fascinating they would do so. And we continue with this creative vein today re-creating our world, or displaying alternate realities of our world, through art, paintings, creative writing, poetry, it is something that endures in the spirit of man, that expression that was captured on cave walls 10’s of thousands of years before the pyramid’s were built. To me, there’s something hopeful in that.
There’s a concept I think put forth by the likes of Jung called the “Collective Unconscious.” This can also be found as a theme through the writings of John Steinbeck. It’s this concept that we each have in us this collective psyche, this autonomous mind that might be thought of better as instinct. Those things that we have in our soul but might not have come from any specific teachings, learnings, or upbringing. It is carried over from generation to generation and is something we just know, it’s in our bones, our blood. This concept has been critiqued as having little scientific merit as it’s more or a mystical, metaphysical, or ethereal belief vs. something concrete that can be proven. I believe in it. It rings true to me. We are connected through generations and generations of humanity and these paintings to me speak to that. We can see what those ancient humans saw in their mind’s eyes. Something drove them to re-create their world, and leads us to still do that same thing today.