Greetings from kleines c. I should perhaps clarify for everyone reading 'The Third' that although I occasionally haunt Somerset House, I am hardly the ghost of Gauguin, let alone the Courtauld! There is far too much work to be done elsewhere, Sydney!
Of course, Vincent van Gogh famously disagreed with Paul Gauguin, although I would argue that one should not necessarily look for either suggestion or even description. Artists of real talent always seem to slip through the net of such criteria and swim away in a totally different direction. Nevertheless, I suspect that at its heart, all great art has an essential ambiguity, although that ambiguity may not be defined in terms of suggestion, description or any other abstraction.
Nevermore? Never more? Never less? In the link below is the oldest known representation of a couple making love in the world. It was found in a cave in the Judean desert. The pebble depicts a couple face to face. One person has wrapped their arms around the shoulders of their lover in an embrace. The knees of one of the figures bend up over the legs of the other. The pebble has been ingeniously carved so that, whichever way you look at it, the shape of the figurine is phallic but the genders of the couple are not revealed. What was the sculpture used for, Sydney?
The people who made the figurine are known as Natufians and are among the first people to domesticate sheep and goats. Selectively breeding animals required an understanding of the male role in reproduction and the sculpture's phallic shape may reflect their interest in fertility. Was this work of art used for rituals focussed on fertility or is it simply a reflection on human love, Sydney?
Certainly, to me, the tenderness of the embracing figures suggests not reproductive vigour, but love. People are beginning to settle and to form stable families, to have more food, and therefore more children, and perhaps this is the first moment in human history when a mate could become a husband or a wife.
All these ideas may be present in our sculpture of the lovers, but we're still largely in the realm of historical speculation. On another level though, it speaks to us absolutely directly, not as a document of a changing society but as an eloquent work of art. Here is sculptor Marc Quinn:
'There's the difference between art and artefact. An artefact is something from a time that stays in that time like a piece of pottery and it becomes like a relic of that time. An artwork is something that is from a time, but is also eternally in the present moment, and I think you can definitely say that this sculpture is in the present moment. That to me is the great strength of making artwork, you are making essentially emotional time-machines; you're making an object of meditation that will communicate with people in ten thousand years time (were it to survive) in a very direct way - I mean, certain things are beyond time.'
From the Ain Sakhri lovers to Rodin's statue of 'The Kiss' there are 11,000 years of human history, but not, I think, much change in human desire. Evermore; ever less? Nevermore, Sydney; never less? May I take this opportunity to wish you a wonderful weekend! Cheers, all (Saturday morning breakfast coffee)!