Paths to Abstraction

The paths to abstraction are straighter and shorter than one might realise—and they can double back. Let’s begin with the rock art—engravings and paintings—found in every corner of the globe; from Africa to Australia, from Norway to South America. They share specific characteristics even as they have a regional flavour, and these same characteristics—notches, circles, lozenges, clutches of dots alongside schematised stick figures—all point to symbolic abstraction as a precursor of naturalism. Such abbreviated motifs are a record of man’s apprehension of his world. Clearly abstraction had particularly early beginnings. This mark-making by our prehistoric cousins—the impulse to incise or…

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