Abstraction, Symbolism & Spirituality v2

Abstraction, Symbolism & Spirituality

This work shall examine the modalities and evolution of art looking to clarify the relationship of abstraction to realism, the use of symbolism in abstraction as a product of spirituality; as well as the modern use of metaphor as a contextual parameter for direct meaning in contemporary art. I hope to draw correlations that will help students and laymen grasp an understanding of the enormous power and heritage found throughout art and its history.

Neolithic Paleolithic

The works considered to fall under Paleolithic periods is circa 32,000-11,000 years ago. Works first marking this time are typically known as cave paintings this also applied to objects found in or nearby these caves. Such as bone or antler typically carved with patterns or what are considered to be decorative motifs. I have looked to this period many times for many reasons, mostly to examine the first evolution of aesthetics and to ask some of the following questions along with others:

1. What drove the need to create objects painted or carved?

2. Was there rudimentary language through symbols that were understood by most at the time?


By looking at the need for early man to document day-to-day existence, we see the emergence of ritual as the first manifestation of expression. These first manifestations were based upon the relationship of man to his natural environment. It becomes easier to see modern civilization’s relationship to this early understanding and subsequently understand its reciprocal admiration of this period. It is from these first early observations that we may begin to answer some of the questions listed above. 



 I believe that the inhabitants living in the area of this time including Mesolithic, Neolithic with of course some variations, saw the use of marking there tools with symbols and inscriptions as a way of tribal identification or territorial marker. The symbols inscribed on tools found nearby these areas would signify to others that the territory had been marked. And by using the same inscriptions throughout the caves or objects let neighboring tribes see the extent of area or territory covered. Once purpose was established in the marking of objects I believe associations of those markings started to acquire meaning for the individuals making the objects and the representation of how the markings where made also began to take on layers of meaning. What is in man that he feels the need to create? We first need to look to nature’s role in relation to man in this time frame so that we may ascertain meaning if any, and begin to identify key elements those relationships appear to manifest. As with some artist today who explore the relationship of nature to materials and concept through art. It is my belief that individuals living in Paleolithic times began a similar relationship, though there are those who feel it as being unconscious to them at the time but in essence a spiritual relationship to nature. The same experience today that we now reserve for devote religious individuals. If these first markings began with spiritual relations to nature, it follows that the evolution of this process would not stray to far from its original intent. It seems logical that over time individual members (shaman) or (artist) where given the task of documenting the tribes identity and daily existence.

Lascaux cave. Paint on limestone, 15,000-13,000 BCE

Other archaeologist and historians such as Joseph Campbell have attributed the paintings to signify initiation rights of younger tribal members into manhood. I think this to deserves consideration having the benefit of studying rituals in present day tribal practice.

Southeast Asia Sites

A number of bronze drums, knowns as Dongson drums, usually in pairs, were found buried in several sites in Malaysia . These burials remain a mystery as most of them were chance finds with little or no archaeological data . The bronze drums were discovered in Kuala Terengganu, Ulu Tembeling, Kelang and Banting and are believed to have been brought from Northern Vietnam based on similarities in shape and motifs on the drum face between drums found there and those from local sites.   The discovery of a pair of these drums at Kampung Sungai Lang in Banting, Selangor gave impetus to a new chapter in gathering data on Dongson drum burials as the site was systematically excavated. The find has since been classified as a symbolic burial for a personage of a high social status in his community.   The excavation revealed that the Dongson drums were buried face down on a 2 meter long cengal hardwood plank believed to have been taken from an old boat. The whole of the drums were buried in earth piled up as a mound measuring about 5 meters at ground level and 1 meter at its peak. Then clay pots were also recovered, surrounding the drums. These were believed to have held food and water, while glass beads were also found scattered among the pots.

Malaysia neolithic
Malaysia neolithic
China Neolithic period
China Neolithic period
China Neolithic
China Neolithic

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