History easily overlooks the voices of everyday people, but creative expressions such as cave art and graffiti are especially valuable as reflections on the lives of the average person in society rather than the upper crust.
Text: René Kästner
Why do humans feel an innate need to express their feelings through abstract shapes, characters and symbols? Obviously, a line can be drawn between ancient cave art and modern-day street art.
Humans are unique because they have the ability to think in abstract terms; we can communicate about the past and make plans for the future. And just as humankind has progressed from thoughts that are basic to thoughts that are more abstract, communication, too, has advanced from behavioural forms to symbolic systems, extending knowledge beyond the capacity for humans to remember.
If the cave paintings of the past reveal so much about the development and evolution of our species, then similarly surely so can contemporary art; say, graffiti, comment on the social and political state of our world. History easily overlooks the voices of everyday people, but creative expressions such as cave art and graffiti are especially valuable as reflections on the lives of the average person in society rather than the upper crust.
This is why we decided to pick ten artists to each work on one piece inspired by cave paintings, to visualize the bridge between Lascaux and modern street art, graffiti and any other type of creative activity. Guiding the selection itself was criteria such as style and personal background: from illustrative pieces to abstract works, you can find everything that has inspired today’s graffiti and street artists throughout their careers. Actually, for most of the participants the given task has not been a big challenge, they are well aware of the close link between cave painting and graffiti. Creating a work “inspired by Lascaux” came almost naturally for these artists when thinking about the deepest roots of their craft.
“Using the medium of collage, I have attempted to boil-down the overall experience of Lascaux in a modern but classic way. I have applied a sense of movement to the composition and used hand-made markings to mimic the amazing ancient artwork.”
Adam Hale is a collage artist and animator based in Surrey, England. He began experimenting with collage by collecting free magazines on the way to work, and using them as source material for artwork in his spare time. As a student, he studied digital art mediums but now he prefers the challenges of the analogue process: “If you’re building a composition and an image doesn’t quite fit, you can’t flip or resize it. Creative solutions to these limitations have led to some amazing results. I believe collage art is a collaboration of artist and circumstance.” Follow him on Instagram @the.daily.splice.
“What we graffiti sprayers do is actually nothing new. It has been around for aeons. In principle, it appears to be a primitive human drive to immortalize oneself in public places; or in this case on the wall of a cave, and leave behind some kind of image. Linking the two – the past and the here and now – was the basis for my original idea.”
Jonas Ihlenfeldt, born in Göttingen (Germany), lives and works as an artist in Leipzig, Germany. Under his pen name Bond TruLuv, he has earned global renown thanks to his combination of the letters “Bond,” which he constantly reinvents as calligraphic and stylistic graffiti. His perfectly crafted, three-dimensional, wall-to-wall murals embedded as installations in their surroundings are found across the continents – from Europe to Asia to Africa.
“The idea of combining the whole outer space theme with cave painting immediately came into my head – in the form of a robot painting binary code in a cave. I could work very well with this. It is designed to provoke a smile, perhaps even to get one thinking a little.”
André Morgner, known as BOOGIE, lives and works in Basel, Switzerland, as a designer and illustrator but remains a graffiti artist at heart. Even though deeply connected to his roots in the East German Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains), André decided to study communication design knowing that what he wanted to do needed a more solid foundation. Today, working as a self-employed graphic designer, graffiti – his big passion – has become part of his everyday job.
“For me, the roots of graffiti are actually to be found in New York and the spreading of one’s name: from city to city, country to country and continent to continent. However, if you think about it seriously, when did someone first paint something figurative or something depicting emotions on a wall? Then I see the cave paintings as the origin.”
Michael Vogel, alias Caparso, lives and works in Dresden, Germany. He invented his unique, groundbreaking illustrative style in around the mid-2000s – a style which had, and still has, a strong impact on today’s street art movement. Caparso plays with perspectives, the human face, and emotions connected with urban scenarios.
“I see the Lascaux caves as something very mysterious. I imagine meandering through this dark place and finding beautiful, ancient paintings around every bend. I try to draw the viewer in by creating a lot of depth with lines: A small figure in the middle of this piece is admiring the beauty on the wall, before continuing the walk into the dark unknown.”
Christa Rijneveld lives and works in Golden, British Columbia. Having moved from the Netherlands to Canada in 2015, she quickly fell in love with the Rocky Mountain landscape and has been drawing and painting mountains ever since. To her happy surprise, what started purely as a creative outlet turned into something she was able to do full-time.
“My typical artworks and animal interpretations look and feel like a combination of prehistoric animal drawings and todays illustrative paintings, with a dynamic drawing flow and the mechanical touch. The animals in my world always look a bit aggressive, only because I draw a hungry lion here or an eagle there. But the aggressive stance is only a human interpretation as we are unable to see inside the psychology of these animals to find out about their emotions.”
Björn Lindner alias JAYN is a German graffiti artist and designer. His illustrations and drawings of animals are a stylistic mixture of realism, design elements and dirtiness. For Jayn, it’s appealing to draw and paint on different surfaces like fine-art paper or canvas. Every tool – cans, airbrush, brushes, markers and pens – has its own effect. This particularity is what makes their combination so intriguing.
“Above all I found the quality of the animal pictures in Lascaux, the quantity alone, the composition as a whole, very exciting. It is all incredibly dynamic. Starting from this, at first I proceeded figuratively and then got more and more abstract. This fits in very well with my work, as I also tend to operate using depth and different planes.”
MadC, born as Claudia Walde in Bautzen (Germany), is a graffiti writer and muralist best known for her large-scale, outdoor artistic paintings. Her creative endeavours have taken her into various creative fields including graphic design, writing and fine art. MadC’s philosophy is that graffiti is the greatest way to express oneself: where the final thing is all that matters and no one need know your true identity.
“A view inside the modern Lascaux caves, the prehistoric Sistine Chapel, featuring the world’s most famous and impressive cave paintings, now and then.”
Born in Mauritius, Mode2 moved to the UK in 1976. Punk had just started its own cultural revolution, while reggae and dub were always present in the “blues” parties in the neighbourhood of Lewisham, a district in South East London. Being one of the European graffiti pioneers, whatever he drew or painted reflected these influences; from popular comic-strip characters to lead figurines, even to the odd oil portrait or landscape painting.
“In my early years as an artist I was inspired by the freedom and movement in primitive art, so it was a pleasure to revisit that way of working. My current work is very clean, graphic and precise, so in contrast to this, the very loose and instinctive style of the cave paintings was my main inspiration; to mix the old with the new, but keeping the same earthy colour schemes of cave paintings.”
Mr Cenz has been scribbling on surfaces since 1988 when he first discovered hip-hop culture and graffiti art. His style, which is full of funk and movement, is a fusion of different skills such as photorealism, illustration and graffiti letterforms. His “surrealist graffiti art for the soul” currently focuses on female faces: he works mostly from fashion photographs to create unique interpretations of strong, spiritual women, abstractions formed in a freestyle way.
“The Sumerian mythology of the seven Apkallus is one of the oldest stories about Mesopotamian culture, and might be the oldest story ever written about caveman. According to the [third-century] Greek historian Berossos, once upon a time when humankind was still hairy, sitting freezing by the sea, they saw a strange man coming out of the water wearing a fish costume. It was Oannes, the first Apkallu, followed by six others, sent by the god Enki. They stayed for a while to teach humans everything about civilization.”
Poes, hailing from Lyon (France), started making graffiti art in 1998 while still studying at secondary school, turning La Défense, a labyrinthine business district west of Paris, into his playground. His relentless activity as a diehard graffiti artist sent him travelling all over Europe, from Moscow to Istanbul, from Berlin to Belgrade. Trading his sprays for paintbrushes, he now uses humour and irony to create poetic visual odes to reflect a fantasy society.
René Kästner is a curator, networker, artist, blogger and filmmaker with roots in the urban art movement. He is the producer of several Street Art film documentary series at ARTE Creative, the curator of Hallenkunst and
founder of the news bench and blog ilovegrafitti.de.
The art project “Inspired by Lascaux” accompanies the exhibition “Lascaux: Visual Worlds of the Ice Age,” on display in the Small Olympic Hall, Munich, from April 17 to September 8, 2019