The Art of Life

I’ve been painting our garden fence and yesterday left a little blue handprint beside the paint pot. As I hunted for a cloth I remembered the cave paintings I’d visited with outlined hands that have been waving for thousands of years. Hands that were once alive, that made art, that simply said “I am here.”

In the Lascaux Caves in South-western France our Palaeolithic ancestors created thousands of beautiful images featuring bulls, horses, stags. Crowds of human figures who worshipped and fought and loved. Haunting to acknowledge how little our species has changed. I stood in front of those red-ochre handprints and fought the urge to press my palm on top, I wanted to reach across the centuries and tell those ancient people that I saw them, heard them, felt their human foibles and loved them anyway. Around 20,000 years separated us. 

“Science tells us we are merely beasts, but we don’t feel like that. We feel like angels trapped inside the bodies of beasts, forever craving transcendence.”

V.S. Ramachandran

Being human is quite the thing. And art seems to offer answers to the weight of consciousness, the pull of existentialism, the questions without answer. Creativity in music, writing, painting seeks to point out our humanity while remembering that our time is short. It seeks to shine a light on the dark places of our soul. No wonder dictatorships so fear the artist.

My blue fence looks nice, I suppose, but I feel the need to visit a gallery and stand motionless before a painting. The Ulster Museum is calling.