Travelling to an ice age cave in Serbia, a prehistoric decorated cave in France and rock-carved churches in Ethiopia, inspired a series of colourful and highly textured paintings. It was quite emotional to enter these secret spaces with natural ornaments and witness how our ancestors frequented such caves for cultural and ritual practices, adding their pictorials through early history. Centuries later, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians painfully carved churches from “living rock” to symbolize spirituality and perhaps recreate the sacred nature of underground caves.
Serbia, June 2018
Cava Resava, located in a limestone hill near Despotovac in Serbia, is a portal to the ice age, dating from 45 million years ago. It was discovered by a shepherd in 1962 and opened to the public 10 years later. Cava Resava contains numerous chambers, galleries, columns, stalactites, stalagmites, draperies and stone waterfalls created by the dissolution of calcium carbonate. The colours depend on the minerals carried in the water and are predominantly red from iron oxide, white from calcium crystal and yellow from clay traces.
Ardèche, France, December 2017
The Decorated Cave of Pont d’Arc, also known as Grotte Chauvet, is located in the limestone cliffs of the river Ardèche in the south of France. It contains the earliest-known and best-preserved figurative drawings in the world, dating back from 30,000 years ago. The cave was closed off by a rockfall approximately 20,000 years ago and therefore remained sealed until its discovery in 1994, helping to preserve its integrity. Grotte Chauvet, with more than 1,000 drawings, constitutes the best-preserved artistic expression of the Aurignacian people and is an exceptional testimony of prehistoric cave art. The amazing reproduction of the cave allows the viewer to step 30,000 years back and share moments with the Aurignacian artists who created these marvellous paintings.
Ethiopia, March 2017
Teaching an Immunology Course in Gondar, brought me to the Amhara region in Northern Ethiopia. The fortress city of Fasil Ghebbi (also referred to as Gondar Castle) was the residence of the Ethiopian emperor Fasilides and his successors in the 16th-17th centuries. Surrounded by a 900 meter-long wall, the city contains palaces, churches, monasteries and unique public and private buildings marked by Hindu and Arab influences, subsequently transformed by the Baroque style brought by the Jesuit missionaries. Although the fortress was most impressive, it is the old walls eroded by age that caught my attention. Two photos with dominating green mosses and rose-coloured rocks inspired the paintings entitled Gondar Castle, Ethiopia 1 and 2. Texture was laid down first to form an aging wall and multiple acrylic layers were subsequently applied.
Prior to the course, I visited Lalibela, the center of Ethiopian Christian Orthodox Religion. Lalibela is an important holy city located at 2,500 meters above sea level, near a volcanic plateau. This rural town is known around the world for its churches carved from porous red volcanic tuff surrounded by basalt rock. Most of the churches are thought to date from the reign of King Lalibela (12-13th centuries), who intended to build a new Jerusalem of rock. The churches, which form interconnecting complexes, emerged from within the earth “living rock” as monolithic isolated blocks or as carved faces of a cliff. Mosses fed by infiltrating water confer green, bright yellow and orange hews to the porous rose-coloured church facades and surrounding cliffs, creating natural paintings in an arid landscape. I have depicted details of a church carved facade in 3 small paintings. A larger painting attempts to recreate the meditative and spiritual feelings of Lalibela, reminiscent of the feeling of the prehistoric caves.
Included in this exhibition are some simple statements done earlier with acrylic on paper and encaustic and entitled Neolithic Impressions as they are reminiscent of the cave series.