Primitive Art: Looking to Cave Painting to Gain Clarity

So I decided to work on my image of Eve by really pushing out of my comfort zone and trying to imagine the pre-Fall Eve in the simple forms mentioned in my last post. There was a clarity and simple lessons were shown most clearly in the earliest artists, where the Jewish artists avoided too much of a likeness. This lack of detail goes against my instincts so I decided to look to the very early cave paintings in order to gain inspiration for the basic forms. I also wanted to look at scripture in order to keep my image as close to the truth of Eve as possible.

Things I learnt from Genesis included:

  • God made male and female (Genesis 1:27). This suggests a distinctiveness, an individuality set right from the start. “in our image” on the other hand somewhat suggests that they collectively represent God on Earth, or the other qualities given my God. Eve was created to be herself, gifted with good qualities. It is these influences that need to make their way into the image of Eve. It is a dramatic high point of creation, the pinnacle, where God gives Himself for the first time to man, in their own creation.
  • God tells Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiple” (Genesis 1:28). This suggests, far from being chaste and innocent in all ways, that their sexuality was strongly connected to who they were, and hence the sexual parts of their body and personality were not sinful (despite being tainted by the Fall alongside everything else). Procreation is also strongly connected to the image of God, because as they produce children they imitate the creation of God in them. Sex is also seen by some to be the part of life which reverses the primal separation (Eve being taken out of Adam) by returning to a unity of one flesh as husband and wife.
  • Dominion (Genesis 1:28) is also given to Adam and Eve as part of their life. Although also connected to stewardship, it implies they were given power and authority and so also implies that these characteristics in their purest form are not in themselves bad.
  • Adam and Eve were part of creation which was described by God as “very good”. Although this was fragile, this is still an important part to cling to – mankind being initially good, very good.
  • Parts of the creation I find difficult include Eve being taken from Adam as a rib (although a cute statement from a friend says this is because Eve was close to Adam’s heart), was named ‘ishah in Hebrew meaning “out of man she was taken”, and she was created naked and unashamed. The shame issue is something I have continued to think about and this may well come from posture, but how I am to portray a woman as a reformed rib, I don’t know.

Moving onto cave paintings and early art. “Primitive” art is often named not due the idea of the people being lesser, but instead due to them living in a way that is closer to the life of our ancestors. Their images often held spiritual and trusted significance:

“Pictures and statues, in other words, are used to work magic.”

The forms are largely made up of outlines in dark tones, with colour to shade areas of skin or fur. Other examples used complex repeating patterns. I decided to experiment with this whilst staying with the reformed image of Venus pudica. I will continue to work on this image to connect it to the statements of Genesis, but keeping her alone seemed important to keep her individuality in her creation.

So I give you, The Simple Eve:

TheSimpleEve

Feedback (constructive please) is always welcome below in the comments!

~*~

Attridge, Harld W. (General Editor). The Harper Collins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version including the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books with Concordance, (Harper Collins Publishers, San Francisco, 2006).

Gombrich, E. H. The Story of Art, (Phaidon Press Ltd, London, 1995).

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