Tuesday, August 11, 2009

home is an alien world

Why do I choose to paint pictures of people and animals? I guess it's because I like to imagine that I remember another time and place, perhaps even this place in a slightly different realm of being.

Have you ever thought that there were other 'human beings' before our pack race of homo sapiens came along to fill every nook and cranny of the the world? We have strange names for them that I doubt they called themselves: Georgian Man, Peking Man, Heidelberg Man, Neanderthal, Homo rudolfensis, Homo habilis, Homo ergaster and Homo floresiensis. They were here long before us and some of their species lasted 100,000 years or more before our forebears climbed down from the trees and headed out across the savannahs of ancient Africa. Not just anonymous relations to gorillas, they were peoples with family bands, histories and cultures of their own. I imagine their elders sat around fires and told stories and philosophized about the stars in the sky. I'll bet they made music, danced and even told jokes but we'll never know for sure. Any instruments or forms of written language would have crumbled to dust long ago and all that's left of the oldest of them now is a few petrified bones.

Since we don't know exactly how they looked, other than the fact they looked nothing like us, they might not have needed shamanic masks for their rituals. Perhaps their intelligent faces had the look of howler monkeys, lynxes, martens, bears and wolves. What we do know is that they are the eldest of our elders, their thoughts and aspirations lost to time but they were here on earth at the cusp of sentience when people and animals had not yet separated into us and other. They were the people of the Dreamtime whose voices whispered through Vedanta and early Greek philosophers to remind us of a civilization we missed in an alien world of extraordinary beauty.

We are the last 'human beings' on the planet.


marja-leena said...

Lovely art work! And the kind of thoughts I often have of these very early ancestors of humans, and I do like to think they were that. And they did make cave art, beads, sculptures, even flutes. If they could do all that, I like to imagine they had some kind of language and song as well. Did you see this recent article about a 35,000 year old flute found in Germany? http://www.sciencecentric.com/news/article.php?q=09062447-earliest-musical-tradition-documented-sw-germany

The Crow said...

Beautiful artwork, Susan.

I have long thought it arrogant of scientists to presume that early mankind were unintelligent or incapable of producing art in any form or having distinct languages and cultures.

Who the heck do we think we are?


Zee said...

Hi Susan!
I most always like your pictures and the way you integrate humans. Sometimes they are amusing as well and also having a whiff of erotica while keeping innocence, an illustration fit for a child's picture book.
I started yesterday to paint also, haven't done it for a while, feels good. here is the link: Give me a break
It is finally a "real" summer here, hot and muggy. I savor every hour of it!

Anonymous said...

...and an image of god, gods and deities are conspicuously absent. Great work Susan; both the illustration and exposition on our ancient ancestors.

Randal Graves said...

Yeah, but did they have cable? No? Advantage: homo sapiens. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got no time for dreaming. I need to make that extra buck or three.

linda said...

as always, your paintings intrigue me in a way few others do and this one is delightful...I want to be that child on the giant bird seeking dangerous magic behind every bush!

what a great post... you are a hard act to follow, genius at work... does your mind never sleep? my thought is no, probably not :)

needless to say, I adore this one too and your post is indeed, food for thought~again!!

La Belette Rouge said...

Gorgeous. Your work just gets better and better.

I LOVE the title of this post. I so agree with that title and yet for different reasons than you. I might, at a later date, borrow that title.

I have never asked the questions you ask of yourself in this post. I do often think of colours that used to exist that we can't even conceptualize. This is something I think a lot about. Wierd, huh?

susan said...

marja-leena - Thanks, it's nice of you to say so. I did read about the very old Neanderthal made flute found in Germany. Pretty cool, eh? From my reading I understand that all the extant cave paintings were done by Homo sapiens and none older than 40k years have been found. Some of the oldest of the other human races lived their 100k worth of years millions of years ago. That's time enough for their caves to have been subsumed by the earth.

marsha - Unfortunately a lot of science is all about arrogance. It's kind of fun to read some of the others like Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race by Michael Cremo.

zee - Nice to see you again. I'll be delighted to drop by to see your new painting.

spartacus - I've always believed the real mystery is much bigger and deeper than the concepts of modern religion allow. Glad you enjoyed it .

randal - Go ahead, you lackey of the capitalist oligarchs. I prefer dreaming except when I get hungry :-)

linda - It's one of only two paintings I have framed and hanging in our living room so I guess I must like it a lot too :-)

I'm very glad you enjoyed the post and of course I sleep but I also read and that helps fuel the dreaming.

belette - I hate to tell you this but the fact is I used to be a better artist in many ways than I am now. This is the oldest of the paintings I still own and I love it too. At some point I started working too fast because of time constraints so I'm really looking forward to retirement and some uninterrupted painting time. It's getting better now I only work 4 days a week.

The colour thing is interesting in that we're able to see about a million shades but when you consider the visible spectrum is a very small space between infra-red and ultra-violet the idea of what we miss is intriguing.

Feel free to use the title :-)

gfid said...

i recently heard a fascinating bit on CBC radio about a specialist in water mammals who's also a jazz musician. he claims whales make music. it's just so much
s l o w e r
than ours, that we don't hear it. he was playing his clarinet through some under water sound system, along with a whale. he and the whale were jamming... emulating each other... and there were definitely patterns and repetitions in the whale's song... verses and choruses?

the ostrich!!! gasp of delight! i have an ostrich story i'll have to tell one day. i met one on the loose during a walk @ the Toronto zoo one day.

gfid said...

that should read
s l o w e r

gfid said...

i'm trying to put many spaces between the word 'slower' to make that one word take up a whole line, but blogger is 'correcting' me.

susan said...

gfid - Whale songs have been recorded for a number of years and there have been a lot of studies done by marine biologists. I've listened to some of them myself but they're waay too slooow for me to really enjoy by themselves. It would have been neat to listen to the jam you heard. Just imagining a Paul Horn and a humpback duet makes me smile.

I'd like to read your story about the ostrich :-)

ps - I never let spellcheck interfere with my spelling since I prefer the English I was taught rather than the American contractions.

Seraphine said...

i live, i breathe
i work, i sleep
a brief glimmer
among effortless
glimmers before
night comes

Seraphine said...

you amaze me, susan. you frame the world beautifully and invite others to walk with you.
i love the ostriches. if we assume earliest man came from africa, its possible that they had a relationship with these flightless birds.
and i'm sure feather dancing was a very popular entertainment around the campfire.

susan said...

sera - a delightful poem and true.

The amazement is mutual and now I have a picture in my mind of ancient feather dances to go to bed with :-)

lindsaylobe said...

An interesting post and I have often wondered about previous civilizations that may have prospered before as well; but I am reminded by other’s arguments who say that you would expect there to be more substantive archeological evidence. The development of the frontal lobes, - the driver to consciousness and improved intelligence is thought to have occurred much later in our evolutionary cycle, perhaps within the last few hundred thousand years and undoubtedly caused our heightened sense of curiosity.
When people died, the memories that persisted in the minds of those who were left were thought to be "ghosts" or assumed as evidence of life after death. And so this "consciousness" was understood within the context of early religious and magical beliefs. But today there still exists the remnants in certain cultures who exhibit a cautionary element not to talk about or depict those who have passed away
Certainly your paintings would have affinity with the many cultures, such as the Australian aboriginal who not only painted interaction with animals but incorporated their movements into their many dance rituals -just like many indigenous cultures elsewhere.

Best wishes

Seraphine said...

if we're the last 'human beings' on earth, i want to be an ostrich. DIBS!

susan said...

lindsay - Yes, I know what you mean about the fossil evidence of the precursors to Homo Sapiens not showing sufficient evidence of cranial capacity as large as that of modern humans. Still, it's entertaining to imagine other 'human' cultures inhabiting the planet long before us. Considering the fact the earth is 4.5 billion years old the geologic records of many civilizations could have long since been subducted back into the mantle and we'd be none the wiser.

A book I read a year or two ago by Graham Hancock called 'Supernatural' where he describes research into the development of modern human consciousness. I think you'd find his his discoveries very interesting in that we appear to have woken as a species about 40k years ago.

I really do love Aboriginal artwork and am flattered by your comparison.

Best wishes :-)

sera - I want to be an ostrich too. They have big powerful legs and magnificent tails. There'll be room for both of us :-)

Nancy said...

It's probably breathing a sigh of relief.

Spadoman said...

It's obvious what the anthropologists of the future will think, and that is man was the servant to the dogs. After all, we walk behind them with plastic bags and pick up after them. The scat will biodegrade and the plastic will still be there.

I have had these kind of thoughts, about previous generations. I always wonder what it must have been like to cross the country before roads or hunt and gather for every morsel. I sometimes wonder if those examples I mention were "after" some cataclysmic event on earth.
You are truly what I would call, an artist.

susan said...

nancy - Good one :-)

spadoman - From what I've read hunter gatherer societies lived very well - maybe not quite so long but at least they got to use their time more enjoyably than many of us.

Seraphine said...

/me holds onto the ostrich as tightly as she can.

susan said...

sera - it would be a ride like flight across the ground ^_^

Liberality said...

Yeah what you said: We are the last 'human beings' on the planet

And I second linda as well: what a great post... you are a hard act to follow, genius at work... does your mind never sleep? my thought is no, probably not :)

susan said...

liberality - Well, some of us are.. others I'm not so sure of :-)

Thanks for the compliment - the occasional half decent paragraph takes a long time to write. I blame it on the reading.