13 February 2014

Artist writes of being inspired by natural rock forms as may have been typical in the Stone Age birth of sculpture

Tira Vanichtheeranont collection, Bangkok, Thailand

Tira thinks this is a mimetolith, or a rock that looks like something. Even though its find context has been lost it may be an example of a natural form which was found in prehistory and elaborated upon by a Stone Age artist. It seems some carving may have been made to separate the bird, to better define it, in relation to the "rock" it is sitting upon. Even though the rock looks like a base for the bird sculpture, they are found or composed on the same piece of stone.

This is the kind of object which the public needs to understand is important to archaeology so find locations are not lost because someone thinks it must be "just a rock." Pieces like this which can be determined to be artifacts may lead to new archaeological sites and new insights into ancient life ways.

Leone Battista Alberti’s opening words in his treatise De statua, written about 1430. Here the origin of sculpture is described as follows:

"Those who were inclined to express and represent... the bodies brought forth by nature would at times observe in tree trunks, clumps of earth, or other objects of this sort which through some slight changes could be made to resemble a natural shape. They thereupon took thought and tried, by adding or taking away here and there, to render the resemblance complete. Before long the primeval sculptors learned how to make images without depending on such resemblances latent in their raw material".

This passage is the earliest statement of the idea that what sets the artist apart from the layman is not his manual skill but his ability to discover images in random shapes, i.e., his visual imagination, which in turn gives rise to the desire to make these images more explicit.

Noted portable rock art investigator Jan van Es of Roermond, The Netherlands, writes:

"Particularly people of the older stone-age traditions were handling the principle: nature shows and offers the basic forms or basic shapes. They acquired these forms to fix and perpetuate their "image-language" in typological iterations." (pers. comm.) 

Washington sculptor Joy Jasinek says in a recent interview:

“In my 28 years of stone sculpting, I have yet to purchase a squared stone and most likely will not. I do not come up with an idea and then sculpt it from a block. My ideas come from the natural shape and colors of each stone, whether I find a stone or purchase one from a stone vendor. Yes, there are vendors that seek quality and unusual stones from around the world for the sculpting trade. But, ouch … we pay by the pound!"

“I noticed this large, pear-shaped, granite stone half-buried in a nearby field. Looking it over, what came to mind was a BIG FAT CAT.”

Bessie Harvey, a 20th century wood carver explains the process to Barbara Olins Alpert in her book "The Creative Ice Age Brain: Cave art in the light of neuroscience"

“I don’t design my work.  I don’t carve it.  I just make what I see from found objects.  The wood- the insects has already created what it is, and time.  Time rots away a lot of wood, and inside that wood, these little people hide.  I just go to them and find what I see and bring it out.  I think that God is the artist in my work.” 

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