Ice Age Environmental Art

The prehistoric rock shelter of Cap Blanc is truly magical with its 10 metre wide frieze of up to life sized horses carved into the rock-face over 15000 years ago. I was inspired to make a piece of work from my experience of seeing such wonderful art.

reflectionsrealitycrop

Reflections on Reality (oil Painting)

The rock shelter or ‘abri’ of Cap Blanc is little known outside of the Vezere Valley in the Dordogne and I only found out about it from asking if there were any other things to see whilst booking a visit to the painted cave of Font-de Gaume. A short drive out of Lez Eyzes, you turn off the main road, along a water meadow, across a stream full of yellow irises and up through an oak forest and tip off the road to park at a jaunty angle. A narrow path leads down the hill through dank, moss covered small oaks and it is silent apart from nature and the sheer fecundity of life all around.

cap blanc sketchcrop

Part of the horse frieze

The art is protected by a large stone building and the light level is very low and at first it is hard to see the carvings. Then as your eyes adjust and the guide moves the light source, the scale and complexity of the huge composition is revealed. The relief carvings, made with flint tools, are up to 50 centimetres deep and the scale of the work would be a huge undertaking even with modern tools. Like many of the artworks of this period it gives the lie to perspective being a renaissance invention. Bass relief is fully explored to give a sense of three dimensions with overlapping and scale used to create depth of field.

Many people think that the serious art of the period was found only in caves yet this was monumental environmental art for all to see, not hidden away in a cave. All people moving through the little valley would have seen the frieze shining out against the greys of the weathered rock, as would the herds of horses grazing there.

This idea inspired me to make my black and white painting (at the top of this post) ‘Reflections on Reality’  (180cms wide and 120cms high) where I have juxtaposed the carved horses on the rock face with a rollicking line of ponies from the walls of Lascaux a few miles away. I just love that the local herds of horses would have seen this great mural which celebrates their existence.

horsesculptcrop(small)

I spent the morning of my 61st birthday sat on the ground a few meters from the pre-historic rock shelter of Cap Blanc learning to carve limestone with flint tools – so no pressure then! With a hammer (round flint), a pick (round one side with a sharp point), a burin (sharp sliver held with a piece of leather) and a smoother, I carved this Rouffignac style head in 3 hours – Magic! I later made a solar plate print from a rubbing of my horses head. I have such respect for the artists who made the great frieze.

To see this painting and our other Ice Age inspired art visit our Art Gallery at

2 Stanford Square (just off Warwick Street),

Worthing, BN11 3EZ.

Open 11am – 3pm Thursday to Saturday

Jan15th to February14th.

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