The Origin of Visual Expression, Vision and Painting

"The hunt is over but the adrenaline is running high. It's the most challenging and successful kill they can remember. The size of the bison far outnumbered all that came before. And our ancestors wanted to let everyone know about it. But how would they communicate their story and where did they first get the idea to? Where would they find the means to do so? Were the first writings a desperate well thought out attempt to communicate or did they evolve by chance?"

The origin of visual expression: The desire to express himself is clearly seen in the fascinating cave paintings of prehistoric man. The earliest time period in human development is the Paleolithic era and this is where we first see evidence of cave art. The Magdalenian (Cro-Magnon man) period is when cave art was at it's peak and it is estimated that approximately 200 cave paintings exist in France and Spain alone. Some cave paintings date back as far as 10,000-25,000 years ago. Pre-historic cave art continued on from the Paleolithic to Mesolithic, and Neolithic/Chalcolithic, time periods.

The origin of vision: The importance of knowledge for vision was related back to the biological origins of eyes. In short, vision results from three distinct and successive processes: optical, chemical and nervous. The indirect distance senses of vision and hearing are regarded as very different from proximal senses, such as touch and taste. Vision needs knowledge for images to be read as objects. It is suggested that for early eyes this knowledge was gained from life-dead natural selection —stored in the genetic code— to be inherited by individuals for innate behavior. Further knowledge is learned individually and store neurally.

The origin of painting: ± 32,000 years ago, Upper Paleolithic artists began carving and painting on the cave walls. It seems the first hard evidence of the existence of early human artworks —a mental image in the brain as we see it being transformed into a tangible visible image on a wall. Almost all, seems to begin with mimesis and the transfiguration of shadows. Iconic signs may be experienced in all senses, aural, visual, tactile, olfactory and synesthetic.

— Dr. Hugo Heyrman

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