TEYJAH MCAREN

 

www.moderncavepaintings.com

Biography

 

 

“Art is … the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced” - Leo Tolstoy

 

It was a month long excursion to the US Southwest that set in motion my fascination with petroglyphs, pictograms and rock art. While hiking I discovered, symbols and figures high on a cliff face. I remember thinking to myself that someone needed to document and safeguard these works of art. At the time, I was working abstractly and with full color. Something in that moment in time moved me to change my artistic direction.  Reaching through the eons I could feel and hear these rocks talking to me. They spoke of long ago experiences and 

sadness. The passage of time has not always been kind.

 

 Inspired by this experience I began to research the meanings behind the petroglyphs and visit these sacred sites. Of course, this dialogue is fraught with conflicting views in the scientific world so I just let the rocks speak. The solitude and mystery are what I seek to represent in my work. The seeming simplicity of the petroglyph marks belie their labor intensive origin. 

 

In my own work, I constantly explore different media and techniques to express the look, feel and texture of the rock art. Acrylic gels on board, printmaking and rice paper are a favorite support of mine. 

 

I often begin by layering various acrylic gels in an irregular pattern. I enjoy the different receptivity each of these gels will have when I apply water and paint. “What if” often drives my painting ambition. I try to never recreate the same look twice. I encourage “happy accidents” most of the time!  I decide the compositional format and while the gels are wet, I insert a variety of hardware and thrift shop tools to create surface blemishes . The stranger the object, the better. It’s all about the experimentation. Metal pieces are generally the easiest to work with. 

 

When the gels are dry, I begin to layer a multitude of earth tones, iridescence and interference colors to create an interesting and mysterious surface. I have one sculpted painting that has 23 coats of paint and is almost a quarter of an inch thick! The final stage is where I impose the petroglyph images themselves. I may choose them by actual site, photographs or randomly select the pictograms that speak to me at the time and from which I can create a storyline . I like to think of this superimposition of marks upon marks as my own attempt to leave my own symbols for posterity. 

 

Why symbols, why pictograms and why rock and cave art? The allure, for me, lies in the word “communication”. What did these ancient cultures attempt to communicate? Why did they feel the need to leave these symbols? What do their pictographs and petroglyphs mean? Do these symbols have a universal meaning? What drives a person to leave their artistic mark on an impossible rock ledge? 

 

Painting and visiting these rock art sites has taught me about spirituality and how truly interconnected we all are on Earth. These cryptic symbols beckon us to ponder our existence and ask why?

 

Picasso said it best: “The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of pear, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web”