Rock paintings and Rock engravings are probably the world's oldest surviving art forms. The artistic impulses of the prehistoric man found realization on the most obvious canvas – the wall of the caves he lived in.
Rock Paintings over the world, mirrors the difficulties and triumphs of the native man. And even today indigenous tribes of Africa and Australia practice this Art. Sophisticated depictions of elegant human figures, richly hued animals, and figures combining human and animal features, called therianthropes continue to inspire admiration for their energy, and powerful confident lines.
Magdalenian Rock Paintings of Spain
Excavators discovered the Magdalenian Rock Paintings of Spain in 1879. Most academics dismissed these paintings as hoaxes. Recent evaluations have however, confirmed the authenticity of these paintings. These Rock Paintings are indeed more than 32,000 years old.
The recurrent theme in these Rock Paintings are large wild animals, such as bison, horses , aurochs, and deer, and tracings of human hands as well as abstract patterns.
These paintings were drawn with just a few basic colors, but that doesn't take away anything from their artistic value. The paintings were drawn with red and yellow ochre, hematite, manganese oxide and charcoal.
Modern theories claim that these paintings were made by the shamans of the tribe. The shaman or the witch doctor would achieve a trance state and then retreat into the darkness of the caves to paint these visions.
African Rock Paintings
African rock art, unlike the rock paintings of Spain and Bhimbetaka, uses subtle polychrome shading that gives their subjects a hint of three-dimensional presence. These paintings are supposed to signify religious beliefs. Some of the best specimens of African Rock paintings can be found at Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg, South Africa . The San people who settled in this area about 8000 years ago, gave meanings to the walls of their caves through these very paintings.
Bhimabetaka Rock Paintings
Surrounded by emerald green forests, the caves near Bhopal, India, prove to be the ideal settings for an art form as striking as the Rock Paintings of Bhimbetaka. The pitch dark and sometimes perilous caves that house these marvelous paintings, have braved the elements for more than twenty thousand years to protect these art treasures.
These paintings tell us that the native man was an expert in simplifying life; he has drawn animals and birds with just two or three strokes. Red, green, and white colors in all hues and varieties were used to paint these images.
The paintings were done primarily with a finger, but historians suggest that these native artists might have also used feathers, wooden sticks, and needles of porcupines for different styles and textures.
Animal life is the most dominant subject of these paintings. Triangles, rectangles, circles, and hexagons seem to be the units of these paintings. The imagination of the native man was obviously unbridled. Sometimes he has shown the internals of animals as if they were transparent.
Though some of these paintings have been ruined beyond repair because of weathering, they still speak volumes about the life and social practices of the native man.
Rock Paintings suggest that like the modern artists, it must have been the feeling to be conveyed was the most important for the prehistoric man. These paintings depict specific scenes and yet speak the universal language of art that transcends everything, even time.