Monday, November 10, 2008

The Chinese Horse.

When we received the depth assignment, I didn't think at first that my conference topic could provide any relevant material. I'm studying the Lascaux Cave - the site of perhaps the most magnificent two-dimensional Paleolithic art ever found - and although the works there are incredible and sophisticated, I don't instantly associate them with depth. The Paleolithic artists who created the paintings did not intend to create realistic scenes complete with a foreground, background, and use of perspective. However, they did utilize several techniques in order to lend their pictures of animals a sense of realistic depth. Some of the depth effects created were unintentional; for example, many animal pictures were painted over with more animals, and the occlusion that results gives the viewer a sense of seeing many animals running in a herd across a plain. Other techniques were used very intentionally. Paleolithic artists utilized their canvas - that is, the irregular surface of the cave walls - in creating their figures. Naturally occurring indents and curves were given a place in the formation of a whole animal. For example, in the so-called "Chinese horse" below ...

... the Paleolithic artist has utilized the small difference in the two surface planes of the cave wall in order to fashion the line of the horse's neck around the throat area. Although it's difficult to see in photographs, researchers who have seen the horse and others like it up close testify to the sense of depth that this technique lends to Paleolithic art.

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