Saturday, 29 August 2009


Fig. 1 Fig. 4

Fig. 2 Fig. 5

Fig. 3 Fig. 6

Fig. 3a Fig. 6a

Fig. 7


(Re: My proposal dated October 2005)


15TH July – 15th August 2007

Eva Bosch - Painter
Important Note:
I have not been able to download the images I refer to as Fig. 1
to Fig. 7. Please bear with me, and I hope to solve the problem a.s.a.p. Meanwhile you can find the images here:


The night train was taking me from Istanbul to Çumra. A soft breeze was blowing through the blue curtains of my single sleeper; a small unpretentious but well designed unit with all the basic commodities. I drew the curtains to see the landscape; a clean and well-ploughed earth alongside a continuous horizon line could be seen from the window of the train. I wondered if I would see any burials. Back in Istanbul, during lunch, my Kurdish friend had proudly showed me a pictured of the family graves he had built. A small square construction painted in blue where a few months ago his stillborn child had been buried. Next to it a large unit covered the remains of his parents. The struggle of being Kurdish in a no man’s land probably killed them rather than old age.

The train stopped at Çumra and the conductor helped me with my very heavy luggage. I had to jump from the train as it stopped on the wrong side of the station and there was no platform. I walked along the railway tracks towards the small building painted yellow on which the name of Çumra was written in blue. A very young Muslim woman wearing a hijab sat on the floor on a small carpet feeding strawberries to her children. She was also waiting for her pick up, who arrived minutes before mine. I took a picture of her and her two little girls. Although she was not able to read the sentences I was pointing at in my language survival phrase book, she responded with friendliness and complicity to my 10 words of Turkish. She asked me if I had kids, and looked at me sadly when I responded negatively. The place smelled of scarcity but was full of pride. Two traditionally dressed women and two overconfident looking men wearing sunglasses and walking as if they were marching came towards us. They looked at the women as if they were aliens from another planet. The older man addressed himself to them as if they were a regiment that he had to order and discipline. The younger one looked at them the same way that children look at the unknown with a softness that the West has erased from the male’s face since many decades ago.
A mixture of fear and excitement accompanied me until I recognized the pick up that would drive me to the field station.

When I first crossed the threshold of Catalhöyük I felt as if I was entering a different dimension; a place which was going to change me. During summer 2007, I was the artist in residency; I had a desk at the laboratory, a laptop and tons of database to go through.

I had two objectives in mind. The first was to acquire visual material for my studio project in London; the project consisting in a series of paintings and plaster tablets. The subject matter is inspired by my experience at the Turkish Neolithic city. To do that I would respond to images produced by light and shadow, colour and of course the flatness of Catalhöyük’s landscape. I would also try to produce mud figurines in the most spontaneous and handcrafted possible way since I had no experience in the use of the media. Finally I would listen to the place.

My second objective was to collect haematites and soil to extract pigments and produce colours as similar as possible to those used by the prehistoric people to decorate their homes. With the help of the experts I would experiment with them in the laboratory and hopefully be able to return to London with enough material and information to produce my own colours.

To achieve the first objective I placed myself in the Experimental House. Initially I was inside the building, then on the roof and finally I walked around it. I drew, photographed, filmed and made notes about what I saw, what I felt and what I thought. The situation could not be more artificial as tourists kept on coming inside the EH (Experimental House) disturbing my privacy, silence. On one occasion, while I wasn’t there, they helped themselves to my set-up camera and took snap shots of the family; thus ruining a whole day’s work.

I could hear the guards outside chatting in Turkish and the familiar sound of a radio coming from the small kiosk across the road. However, all these disturbances were a blessing: after all when Catalhöyük was thriving with people they would have been walking on the roofs, making fires or exchanging goods; an activity probably comparable to the one in my surroundings. The sound of mopeds and motorbikes as well as cars and lorries passing by the road, merged with the sometimes strong noise of the wind, the tunes of the birds and the occasional bark of a dog.

My accomplishments were as follows;

· The discovery of a sun clock which explained why the people of Catalhöyük would build the entrance to their homes on the South East corner of the roof.
· The running of the small oven placed underneath the ladder that gave entrance to the house. Previous attempts had been unsuccessful.
· Manufacture of sun-dried figurines using local mud, water, urine and straw.
· Recompilation of images from light and shadow created by trees, people or the figurines I manufactured.

Activities from which I gathered valuable information:

Interviewing the laboratory experts, archaeologists and the team in general
Recompilations of coloured plaster samples to use as pigments. The experimentation was done in the laboratory with the help of the experts.
I collected a bucket of plaster lumps; I crashed them and sieved it to obtain powder. This was send to London to make plaster tablets.

It was very enlightening for me to observe and listen to the scientists; an eye opening experience that gave me an introductory acquaintance to archaeology. It appears to me that the scientific mind has a linear methodology of observation and often in its journey it travels loaded with tons of microscopic database information. Although essential, at times, this process can be a burden that often shades a wider focus of observation which is what the artist uses.

From the above I have made five DVDs which together with these notes present an account of the outcome of my residency in Catalhöyük. Further work has evolved from it and it is being carried out in my London studio and will be exhibited in a gallery at a future date. The studio work will be used as the practical part of my PhD titled “Levantine rock art versus the wall paintings of Catalhöyük; Interpreting prehistoric images from a Modern painting perspective”.

Aims and reflections from my residency at Catalhöyük

I refer to the aims of my proposal sent to you in October 2005:

Aim 1. To work from a dozen of items (2D and 3D) excavated by members of the team present in the site and to question them to obtain views and a response to the possible meaning of the items.

Most artefacts found by the archaeologists had already been transferred to either Konya or Ankara and I only had photographs to work from. A series of small figurines (Goddesses) were bought to the laboratory on my last day in Catalhöyük. No comments were made on those.

I observed that almost every member of the team whom I questioned regarding a particular image gave me almost literally the same answer which agrees with the comments already recorded in the field’s database. There is a DVD available titled “Talking to the laboratory experts”[1]

During my stay at Catalhöyük, the Polish team lead by Arek Marciniak unburied a plaster wall decoration consisting of a series of spirals drawn on a plaster strip and placed around the walls of a ditch with a burial. Prior to the find I interviewed Arik Marciniak to ask him about the findings of a previous burial. The interview, the cleaning, conservation of the spirals as well as my attempts at drawing them are recorded in the DVD titled No. 1 “Talking to Arik Marciniak /Spirals – Talking to Füsun Ertuğ/Materials”[2]

Aim 2. Use materials available around Catalhöyük, pigments taken from Turkish haematites; trying as much as possible to use what was used for the originals. Lime or whatever plaster or plasters were used. I will improvise tools, brushes and experiment with the mud and clay.

Information obtained from experts about materials

Chris Doherty had not yet seen the frescos at Ankara or Konya. He did not know the exact colours of the pigments. He has not found haematites in Catalhöyük. Next year he will endeavour to complete a research to decide on the type of plaster used in the walls of the houses. At the moment it is not known. There is no stone in Catalhöyük. Plaster is used instead. The existing plaster has several tones of white. He mentioned the fact that the interiors would often be covered in smoke and therefore the colours on the wall paintings would have been affected by it. So far three colours have been recorded; red, white and black. In James Meellart’s records and copies of the frescoes he found there is evidence of blue, purple and yellow.

The Chemistry Dept of the Konya University provided me with the name of a company in Ankara where to obtain haematites. They said that their pigments came mainly from Bayer in Germany. As far as they knew none of the source haematites were Turkish. The same information was obtain from a dozen shops that sold paint in Konya and Istanbul.

Füsun Ertuğ passed information to me regarding the use of dyes extracted from existing plants around the field station and other plant sources. See video No. 1“Talking to Arik Marciniak /Spirals – Talking to Füsun Ertuğ/Materials”[3]

I conducted experiments with rubia peregrina, commonly known as “paint plant” obtaining a very beautiful dark red. I applied the red to the plaster and the result was a colour very similar to the original painting-sample in the laboratory. Further research was carried out in London and will be discussed in the second part of this paper.

Making objects using the local materials

I collected a bucket of mud from outside the lodgings of the field station and I started to experiment with it. Because of the hot sun the mud-made figurines I produced would dry very quickly and would break very easily. Having had no training in molding clay I found myself as an amateur ceramicist using whatever materials I could find in my surroundings to strengthen the figurines. This simple process illustrated the endless facilities that existed at the time of which there is, of course, no record. The use of animal or human hair; crashed dry grain or gelatin from boiled bones as binders, are a few of the many materials available and maybe used. Further research was carried out in my London studio using plaster taken from the site and will be discussed later. The outcome from the contents of the bucket at Catal was a series of mud made figurines (about 10 cms height) representing women, men, children and a few animals and objects. I exposed them to the sun to dry. I regulated the drying process by adding water or urine to strengthen them and I exposed them to the heat at different intervals. I also tried to add particles of straw or dry sticks to give the mass a more solid consistency. I only used my hands or sticks and stones that I found on the ground. These figurines were later used as puppets to project shadows on the wall that I later filmed. One of the images I tried to reproduce was Mellaart’s Mother-Goddess. The person that made the original piece was gifted with a high degree of observation skills. (Fig. 1). This same acute way of looking was available when observing anything and everything that took place in the city. This same person knew about the journey of the sun and the patterns of its reflection in the interiors of their lodgings. This person was bound to respond to those images in the same observational manner. Curiosity killed the cat; indeed the mind cannot be stopped. While I was at Art College, the most important thing I learned when trying to draw the human body was the need to develop the skill of observation which inevitably leads to a higher degree of awareness. Often colleagues suffering from dyslexia and or with a very poor record of GCSEs were able to acquire such skill, often much faster than the “bright” students would. In many ways, the less informed the mind was the shorter the distance between the reading of the object and the making of an equivalent that the spectator would respond to. A record of the figurines can be seen in DVD titled No. 2 “Figurines – Shadows – Making the oven work”[4]

Fig. 1

Experimenting with Pigments taken from soil:

I collected four samples of soil from the East mount and a charcoal sample. The colours were brown, light grey, almost black, and darker grey. Another five samples of soil were collected from the West mount. The colours were medium grey, beige, medium grey coarse, bluish and a beige stone. I crashed them and tried to apply the powder on paper by mixing it with water or animal fat. See DVD titled No. 3 “Drawings from Catalhoyuk – Experimenting in the studio in London”[5]

The final result was a very soft colour that will probably fade away easily with time. None of those colours were found on the walls. It is also important to mention that the frescoes would often be covered with a coat of thin plaster as a means of protecting them, or to hide them (?) or to paint on top of them. In Paleolithic times the images would be drawn on top of images but in the Neolithic this does not seem to be the case.
From my visits to Konya I gathered a selection of pigments from local shops; the shopkeepers seemed to agree that the products came mostly from Germany. Later I bought more pigments in Istanbul where I was told the same information.

The sun clock and light and shadow inside the EH
After spending two days insight the experimental house observing the light pattern created by the sun light against the Southern, Western and Eastern walls I noticed a sun-clock. See DVD No. 4 “The Sun clock – Light and dust – Three Poems”[6]. It can also be seen in “You-tube”. Links as follows:
A beam of light entered the EH crossing through the wooden ladder and creating a shape on the West wall. The semicircular movement created by this image that slowly became a rectangular shape reflecting the rung of the ladder, would start from the centre of the West wall and would disappear at about 40 cms from the ceiling of the East wall.
The angle of the diagonal beam of light entering the units would vary slightly from house to house and because of the Earth’s movement the pattern would also travel from left to right giving an exact record of the time of the day as well as the Season.
Beside the functional purposes of the Sun clock I observed that at about 16.30 on July 17th (the degrees of the diagonal of the beam of light obviously change daily) the sun projected a perfect screen on the East wall that remained there long enough to perform projections; shadows could be produced either by using hands, objects or the figurines I had made. This demonstrated that our 9000 year old ancestors had the facility of projection; what could be called prehistoric cinema.
Then using old card board and the broken sacks of polyester from the bins I made cut outs of figures and animals. I assume that the sharp edge of the local obsidian stone did provide the Catal people with very efficient cutting tools. Similar cut outs could have been made using the left over of dry skin, soft wood, twigs or leaves.

A small video titled “Shadowhoyuk”[7] was also produced in collaboration with archaeologists Ruth Tringham and Steve Mills.
A complete record of the images and shadows are recorded in the DVD titled No. 2“Figurines – Shadows – Making the oven work”[8].
To speculate on what or how the Neolithic person used these images for would be foolish, but there is no doubt that the shadows were there to be seen daily. Furthermore if children or disabled people were at some point forced to remain inside the house for days, the possibility of creating moving images could very well have been a method of entertainment. Dust and smoke would also create wonderful images when travelling across the beam of light. See DVD titled No. 4“The Sun clock – Light and dust – Three poems”[9]
Because of my Catholic upbringing when I started to edit the footage from the EH I kept on hearing in the back of my mind Maria Callas singing Bach’s “Ave Maria”. Of course my associations have nothing to do with the belief or response that the people of Anatolia would have had. However, what seems certain is that there was an emotional outcome generated by the beauty of the wonderful beam of light entering their lodgings. An outcome loaded from whatever belief the town people shared.


I was made aware by the team that most life in Catal took place on the roofs and outside.
It is also important to mention that work in the field station is only carried out during July and August and therefore there is little data on how does the place look during Spring, Autumn and Winter. I would be very interested to further my research during those seasons.

Perhaps 70% of my time in Catalhöyük I spent inside the EH and walking on its roof. During the periods when the place was not frequented by tourists I tried to create a more accurate atmosphere, by blocking the South entrance with the help of a mattress and a sheet of white cotton (such entrance was made to facilitate access for visitors to the EH). In this way, I could experience the interior as it might have been 9000 years ago. I feared that after a while I would feel a sense of claustrophobia as the unit was not very large (measurements). Interestingly, the hole on the roof and its aperture to the blue sky provided my eye with the certainty that the exit was continuously available counteracting any phobia. The proportions of the room were also important. How were they calculated? I assume that the body could have been used as a tape measure (foot steps; width of the hand, the length of a stick? However the important issue is the actual proportion. Where did it come from? Was there a relationship to the reflections and cycle of the Sun or the Moon?

Another important question was the positioning of the frescoes. The red wall that had been unburied in the East mount is an example (Fig.2 and 3). The positioning of the design confirms what James Mellaart said to me back in 2004 when I was first acquainted with the Neolithic city. Fig 4 also illustrates the positioning of the painting known as “The Volcano”. According to Mellaart the majority of the frescoes he unearthed were place from the horizon line down to the floor. A very different concept from Museum hanging; paintings are there to be seen by the viewer standing in front of them. Perhaps the inhabitants of the decorated homes preferred to enjoy the images seated down. Either by the fire, or while eating, playing or lying down in bed while the sun or a burning light would cast shadows on them. Also their buried relatives would be close to the images, creating perhaps a strong link between the living and the dead.

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Figuration versus abstraction brings another issue. The abstraction of a pattern can always be traced back to nature. As Picasso once said –there is no abstraction- It is possible to imagine the endless amounts of symbolism that such images could provide (Fig. 4). With figuration the narrative is the first interpretation and one would believe that if we were looking at the image of two people in movement (Fig. 5) the reading would be limited to a dance a ritual or an action that we would have to relate to the narrative of the rest of the images in the same panel.

Fig. 4 Ankara Museum
Fig. 5 Konya Museum


On the 31st of July at 00.48am there was a full moon. I wanted to live the experience from inside the EH.I retired there at half past eleven. I blocked the entrance in the south wall to create an environment similar to as it would have been in Neolithic times. I sat on the ladder looking up. The night was clean and the sky clear and packed full of stars. At times it resembled a massive silky royal purple mantle where some Anatolian weaver had carefully placed millions of shinny minute diamonds. Owls would sing their songs with the same precise timing with which the faded sound of the call for prayer could be heard from Küçükköy, the village North from us at about one mile and a half. The clarity of the sky made it very easy to follow the sequence of the stars, the Milky Way, Venus; etc…Whatever name the Anatolians used to refer to them it must have given them a clear reading to register Luna counts, seasons and any information important for a broadcast.
During the night I thought I was hearing sounds coming from underneath the floor. It had been plastered to represent the area inside the house where the dead would have been buried. It was obviously a trick of the imagination, but interesting. I woke up with the sensation of having my lungs full of plaster. This problem might have been solved by placing layers of fabric e.g. a carpet like covering all over the floor. In this way the dust would not be inhaled during sleep.
From my trips around the place I filmed a large amount of shadow-images created by the sun reflecting on to objects. I trust that nothing would have escaped the observing eye of the Neolithic artist. I recorded shadows from trees, leaves, flowers, animals and from the EH. See DVD titled No. 2 “Figurines – Shadows – Making the oven work” The same information that populated my mind, almost exactly as I was seeing it was available 9000 years ago. Considering that the town was built east of a flowing river on those days, the variety of shadows must have been even greater. Let alone the images from the huge variety of fauna and flora that the moist and the water would have produced.

Fig. 6

The spirals (Fig. 6) were found around the walls of a ditch that formed a small space, a rectangle of 190 cms on the Western & eastern walls and 105 cms on the Northern & south walls. It was unburied by the Polish team. The plaster is a strip about 30 cms wide and it goes all the way across the ditch horizontally covering the South, West and North walls. There is no design on the East wall. It is placed at about 40 cms from the present floor where a burial was found. The removal of the human remains and further digging would not take place until next year when the Polish team would return. Meanwhile to protect it, it would be buried again with gravel.
Ian suggested that I should make a drawing of it. I have never been very good at making complete drawings of interiors, let alone a ditch that to be seen as a whole it had to be viewed from above, thus from an awkward perspective. However, the design on the strip was so appealing that I wanted to have a go at it.
At the same time, Duygu, helped by Philip, was planning to make a paper cast of the surface. Special blotting paper had been ordered from Ankara for this purpose. We started early in the morning before the Turkish sun was high in the sky. Duygu and Philip sat inside the ditch experimenting with the paper, carefully cutting it into strips. The day before, they had consolidated the surface by filling in the cracks with Primal and grout, to make sure that the design was secured. I sat above the ditch positioning my feet between two stones to be able to return to the near exact position the following day. The angle was steep and the design was not at a straight angle either. Therefore the combination of steep diagonals together with my vision started to create a drawing totally distorted ----I was seeing the design with my contact lenses and I was drawing it through my reading glasses---. I thought of using the bright shape made by a beam of light which was filtering between the canvases of the Marquee. It had been placed there hanging from the ceiling to protect the site. The shadow moved far too fast for the speed of my drawing and after having spent a total of about 4 hours on the drawing I gave it up.
I then moved myself down to the ditch were Duygu and Philip were busy covering the entire surface with the paper stripes and water. There was little time left to respond to the spiral designs. They would soon be covered with a sort of papier-mâché and left to process and to dry so that an exact cast of the original could be made. Time was running out. I sat between the experts and stripes of white paper dirtied by the dusty reddish soil that came with the wind. The spirals were probably drawn in seconds and with great conviction. To achieve such symmetry with the use of curves is extremely difficult. The whole pattern was probably done from left to right, if the artist was right handed, and all in one go. An enormous amount of concentration is needed to draw such images accurately.
Maria Gimbutas claims that the Goddess as Energy and Unfolding has symbols that –quote—“moving up, down, or in a circle, they symbolize cyclical time. The pulse of life demands an unending stream of vital energy to keep it going” (Gimbutas Language 277). Needless to say that the symbolic meaning of the spiral has been and still is the subject of many books and continues to do so but for me, as an image maker, the importance was not in the meaning but in the making. It is possible that an Anatolian designer was commissioned to draw the spirals in the same way that I was. There is little doubt that they were chosen deliberately. But was it the choice of the maker or the choice of the family of the deceased? Or was it simply the local tradition for burials?
However, by drawing them I was trying to understand how they were made.
Some sort of reversed automatism was taking place. Automatic drawing was developed by the surrealists as a means of expressing the subconscious. Having worked in this manner for several years I was now reversing the process by allowing a free flow of images fed by the spirals in front of me. They kept on passing by my mind in an animated manner.
I focused on a black spot that read to me as a snake’s eye. I drew from there. The marks of my 2B pencil were too soft for the edges of the spirals; probably a charcoal stick would reproduce better the spiky edge of the relief travelling across the surface making the waves. I had none.
What did the spiral-maker use? A finger? A twig? A bone?
How many times did the artist wipe the wall cleaned, removed the plaster and applied it again to the fresh surface? It was difficult to know.
Meanwhile, I continued to focus in the piton looking at me. Beige and grey in a totally uneven surface and precise curves waving up and down with complete certainty. Having been buried for 9000 years the stripe of spirals began to change colour as it was exposed to the air. The heat of the bitter sun had also an impact on it and a shrinking process started to take place. The conservation expert applied all her expertise to slow down the process to a maximum, yet a year would go by before the whole design was cut out from the wall, fixed on a support and taken to the Konya Museum where it would eventually be seen by the public.
The following day, we returned to the place early in the morning. The spirals were all dressed in white, like a bride’s gown. Duygu was now alone. Philip had already returned to London and she had to complete the job without help.
Onthe third day, early in the morning, I went up the mount, hoping to try and draw the spirals again. I knew Duygy had already removed the papier-mâché and I was aiming at being able to draw the spirals for a couple of hours or so. I sat facing the piton and tried as carefully as I could to draw the shapes and the sharp indentations with my 2B pencil. Alas, the charcoal bits I found by the fire, were far too small to handle to allow me to draw with them. Time was flying and soon, a group or workers arrived. I could not understand what they were saying but I gathered they came to cover the spirals with Geo textile, a synthetic material and then bags of gravel.
I pretended that I did not know and I continued drawing the piton and the spiral next to it.
Duygu arrived then and politely asked me to move.
Back at my desk I inspected the sketches I had made. I did fail completely in terms of portraying the plaster designs but I learned that there was a sophisticated mind behind the spiral maker. There was a 9000 year gap between us but for a few hours we shared the same process, we had to deal with similar problems and above all we were both trying to produce an object that would mean something to the community.


Fig. 7

With the help of Hilal Gultekin who acted as a translator for me, I visited the neighbouring town of Küçükköy[10] where we were invited for tea at the house of a couple who worked in the field station. Outside in their garden they had built two ovens, (Fig 7) a small one for regular use and a bigger one to cook larger amounts of food probably to sell. They explained that they bake bread by sticking the raw dough onto the interior walls of the oven until it was cooked. The ovens were fuelled with dry dung and depending from which animal it came from it woull burn quicker or slower; goat’s dung burns easy, cow dung burns slowly. Maybe a similar fuel was used in the ovens of Catalhöyük. The manure gets shaped into circles that are then placed to dry under the sun. The small oven had its aperture to one side but the bigger oven had it on top. There was also a small aperture at a couple of centimetres from the ground for ventilation. Seen from a distance the small oven resembled one of the classical Catalhöyük Goddess’ shapes.

The oven inside the EH had been built according to the size and characteristics of the remains of the ovens previously excavated. No oven has yet been found with the complete top and therefore the replica is an approximation to the real thing. Attempts to make the oven work had taken place previously with no success as the unit would get covered in smoke and the fire had to be put down.
I thought of having a go at trying to light it.
While at the laboratory observing Duygu gluing together the various prehistoric pots, I noticed that often the ceramic was totally burnt. The insight of the pots was as burnt as the outside. From this image I started to imagine a situation where a young child was running from roof to roof of the houses carrying embers to feed the ovens of the interiors.
I then made a fire outside; with the heat and the dry wood available it was set alight in minutes. I then burnt a considerable amount of wood to produce a generous amount of embers. Previous to that I had collected a sack of charcoal from the fire that the team would religiously make every Thursday evening. I filled in the oven with about 20 centimetres of charcoal. I then collected a bucket of embers from my new fire and I placed them on top of the charcoal. I used a piece of cardboard to fan the fire. To keep it going it did require fanning at regular intervals. I kept the oven going for over two hours. I believe that the oven apertures, both on top and to the side would have to be modified by trial and error. A shorter aperture or maybe a design like the large oven of the family in Küçükköy would probably improve its performance.


Since my return to London I have carried out several experiments with plaster, plant- pigments and iron oxide.
The colours and textures that resulted from these experiments can be seen in the. See DVD titled[11] No. 3 “Drawings/Catalhöyük-Work/London”.
The colours I extracted are as follows;

· Red from Iron Oxide and red-madder
· Yellow from the skin of pomegranate
· Brown from the skin of walnut
· Black from charcoal

Back in Catalhöyük and by chance I noticed the binding qualities of chickpeas. Crashed and mixed with water they provide a good media that adheres easily to plaster or paper.
My first attempts at making tablets failed because the plaster would crack when drying. By adding rabbit skin glue or gelatine the consistency is adequate and it does not crack. Both ingredients could have been extracted originally from animal skin or boiled bones.

Further research is being carried out at present and the results will be published at a later date in conjunction with my PhD research.
Conclusions from my reflections

Since the birth of Cubism at the beginning of the twentieth century, painting has slowly branched out into very many different Medias, many of which no longer require paint or a flat surface. The possibilities that such variety offers cannot be argued and its development advances inevitably hand in hand with technology. The benefits that progress brings to our society are undeniable. Furthermore the concepts of Post modernism expand at a speed that could be compared to Windows Operating System. However, in my opinion the act of mark making is something innate to humanity and cannot be erased. For years I have used Palaeolithic and Neolithic paintings as reference for my work. After visiting Catalhöyük I am convinced that it is crucial for painters to return to the origins of pictorial human expression and revisit it from where we stand now. The endless technological possibilities available to the modern artist can perhaps help us to come closer to the aims and meanings of the paintings and artefacts made by the prehistoric artist. The further away that modernity takes us from the Palaeolithic and Neolithic Hommo Sapiens the closer that the work of the artist becomes to that of his/her creative ancestors. To my way of thinking, the umbilical cord that tightens the images together through time can only be cut loose by revisiting prehistoric painting from a new concept of space. There is a considerable difference between a rock or plaster surface and the sophisticated qualities of wood, silk, canvas or paper. The same goes with the use of blood, excrement, iron oxide or plant pigments and the expensive tubes and pots of paint available today but the hand writing of every human being has kept its uniqueness and will never change. I propose a research to study compare and interpret the Neolithic and Chalcolithic images on the interior walls of Çatalhöyük and those in the Levantine rock shelters in the East coast of Spain. My aim is to offer a new theory to the reading of prehistoric paintings via the ethics of Modern Painting. The purpose of my Phd will be to provide a new perspective in the reading of the images of ‘Levantine” Art and of Çatalhöyük generating therefore new paths of research.

[1] Talking to the Laboratory experts – DVD 63 minutes –Not included but available
[2] No. 1 - Talking to Arik Marciniak /Spirals – Talking to Füsun Ertuğ/Materials – DVD 17 minutes
[3] No. 1 - Talking to Arik Marciniak /Spirals – Talking to Füsun Ertuğ/Materials”– DVD 17 minutes
[4] No. 2 - Figurines – Shadows – Making the oven work DVD 28 min
[5] No. 3 - “Drawings/Catalhöyük-Work/London” 14 min
[6] No. 4 - “The Sun clock – Light and dust – Three poems DVD 15 min.
[7] See Catalhöyük database “Shadowhöyük”/Ruth Tringham/Steve Mills
[8] No. 2 - Figurines – Shadows – Making the oven work DVD 28 min
[9] No. 4 - The Sun clock – Light and dust –– Three poems DVD 15 min.
[10] See DVD titled No. 5 “Tradition/Modernity – Küçükköy – Sun set” 16 min
[11] No. 3 “Drawings/Catalhöyük-Work/London” 14 min

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


I do have a few ideas borne from experiencing my chaotic passions and I often think that being a Spaniard, a woman and a painter I mirror myself very much in Picasso’s character, hence why I have attempted to say something about him and his work.

During my formative period I had a residency in Amsterdam. Cultural differences collided with the Dutch School of painting and I almost went mad. What I learnt from it was that when one is in an extreme state of pain some strange awareness opens up and you learn things.

At that time I had a fascination for the physical body, I was doing a lot of exercise and eating/sleeping very well and had beautiful men flying around me. Yet my emotional involvement with them was a total mess, therefore I tried to separate in my mind the body functions from the thinking emotional process.

I had a job cleaning hotels and swimming pools at the time. Shit became important. I realised that the human body is made of shit and so is this planet. There seemed to be two types: moving shit, while there is energy inside (soul?) and non-moving shit that returns to the planet when the energy goes (death). The body being a sack to contain this shit and with 9 holes to keep it moving. The principle of the Alchemist trying to transform shit into gold by "using" the holes fully, made sense to me. A perfect balance between the functions of the holes could transform matter into spirit (God?). I took some excrement and urine and had them in a glass for days observing them. The fumes, the smell, the colour and changing texture. There was a moment, which I thought that some sort of vacuum was taking place and that the glass would explode. I thought of the big bang; the beginning, if there is such a thing. Then I thought that if I was to eat and drink them I could exist without need for anything else.

My room was very small and to use the space I had fully, as I had no studio elsewhere, I hung my bed with four chains in the ceiling, which had beautiful wooden beams. Pinned up on the wood I had a series of post cards of mostly African statuettes of gods and goddesses. Big phalluses and vaginas everywhere. The little Venus (from Lespugue 22.500BC) in the Museum of Mankind in Paris was one of them. During many hours I lied on my bed looking at those. At times I would play with my own genitalia looking at them. Images kept on coming to my mind, strange things, revelations, I felt as if I was Moses and God was giving me the 10 commandments. Letters, I understood, were circles and sticks. The alphabet was nothing other than ordered circles (vaginas) and sticks (phalluses). Then I started to see triangles, squares, rectangles, and circles everywhere. I read Euclid's theories. It all made sense then, although I could not explain it now. I understood how form came about starting from a minute dot (bacteria) and developing into geometrical forms. I also had a big spider, which I found, at some lavatory from the Hotel. Hence the dot becoming alive. Wherever and whatever thing I looked at, was constructed within the limitations of the geometrical form. I then thought of Cézanne. This is why I do not understand abstraction. The body itself being made of such combinations of forms. Also I wondered why is a particular curve erotic and another one feels revolting. When I think of the male body and its curves. If I compare a Japanese wrestler with a sculptural Jamaican young man, the first revolts me the second I desire. Yet they both are made of curves. Here is where I think of Picasso's Demoiselles and of some of the drawings he did prior to painting that painting.

Perhaps it as all my imagination, but those drawings seem to be about this. When he was in Gosol he drew himself as an empty vessel. Some of the images of females drawn around this time were also empty vessels. He tried to work out the female body from the shape of his phallus. Using geometrical forms as well as the shape of amphoras and calculating distances from the different joints of the body trying to work out proportions. He also drew people from Gosol, there was an old man especially, from which I think he developed the image of the face of the woman sitting at the bottom right hand corner of the Demoiselles. I can imagine that on those days villages like Gosol where life was very hard, people physically resembled ancient Africans. I noticed this myself when I visited remote villages in the mountains around my own village. Physical suffering makes people look very primitive; there is a controversial beauty in it. Benin's statuettes have it very much. On the other hand, extreme emotional pain forces you to dig down inside yourself and to return to bare basics, searching for clues to explain the dynamics of those emotions and therefore stop the pain. Kafka talks about this in a similar way in his book "The Penitentiary Colony".

The first signs of we as humans are in Africa. I am wondering if through this emotional journey which I think Picasso went through, as I explain later on, and what he saw in Gosol (helped by his visit to the African museum in Paris) he touched (with that painting) the dividing line between the hooker and the Madonna. The point at which ugliness becomes beauty and a new avenue opens up. The curtain behind the women in the painting looks to me like a vagina, and it is red... He did preparatory drawings of that curtain, which look like vaginas anyway.

It seems to me that Picasso was a very isolated person. I can understand very well how he felt as a child being moved around from Malaga to Galicia, then to Barcelona. All the confusion of identity, which is a very important issue in Spain. The Andalusians hate the Catalans and vice versa. In those days Spain was very poor. Poverty seems to be a detonator for pride and honour. There are sides to both that are good but there are sides that are ugly and horrible. The desperation of survival produces people like Abdullah Ocalan, or the IRA or ETA for this matter. Spain is an extremely rich country in terms of culture. When I was a child I always wanted to be part of everything, I adored bull-fighting and flamenco dancing, but sadly as Franco imposed them to everyone, in an attempt to abolish any other form of cultural identity which did not agree with what he understood as Spanish, the natural reaction from the cultures that he was trying to censure was to ridicule and condescend at flamenco and bull-fighting. The Catalans tried to teach their children to dance sardana instead. It was for me a great dilemma to have to come to terms with my feeling bored with the Catalan dance and my love for the Andalusian one.

I can imagine that Picasso having lived for years in Spain's different cultures, he developed similar likes and dislikes. Palau i Fabre talks about Picasso's accent when he spoke Catalan, apparently he had the accent of Lleida. A Malagueño with a Lleidatá accent is like a Scottish person speaking Cockney in the middle of West Byfleet in Surrey. Being different turns you into an oddity and therefore you are always in no-man's-land, hence the isolation and the need to find some answers for it. Of course the Franco-nightmare did not start until he was already 45 years old, and by then he was mostly in France, but I can imagine that he was always pestered by relatives and friends about his national and political identity. Then there was his father who seems to blame him for his failure as a painter. The weight of the Spanish family structure built on thick catholic guilt, haunts you to the grave.

Then he had to endure the death of his sister, followed by the suicide of Casagemas. It must have been very hard to bear. Palau i Fabre wrote about all this, he knew him quite well it seems. Barcelona with all its beauty is a trap. Much more so at the time he was there. In the Picasso Museum in Barcelona there are several paintings of roofs done around the time of his sister's illness and death. The feeling of loneliness is unbearable. Then came his obsession for pink and blue. I often wondered why pink and blue. Babies when they are born are placed in a cradle and dressed with clothes which are pink or blue depending on whether they are male of female. For some strange reason this tradition is followed in many cultures all over the world.

In Amsterdam I was seeing shit everywhere, and I was obsessed with the body functions, I started to see Van Gogh's still lives as an illusion of "matter" transforming itself. The way he used paint and the way he depicted his subjects: faces, trees, water, flowers etc. His paintings seemed to be a breeding surface where everything was alive without hierarchy. There is no difference between a tree or a human or the sun. All his images breathe in harmony like a symphony.

Picasso’s imagination could produce images non-stop. If he had some excitement inside, a red or a yellow on the surface of the canvas could become a living thing. So much has been said about his personal life, yet my own experience as a painter and being very much a woman proves that he was above all a passionate man addicted to the urge of life and therefore unable to ever compromise.

Las mujeres milenarias de Cogul (Castellano)

El viaje en taxi hacia el enclave neolítico le dio la oportunidad de observar un paisaje seco y lleno de cepas enterradas en una tierra tan amarilla como el sol; parecía estar apretándolas contra sus raíces. El taxista expresaba su orgullo leridano elogiando la joya milenaria pintada en la piedra. La amena conversación, acortó el recorrido a “La roca dels Moros”, lugar donde se ubicaban las pinturas. A medida que el vehículo la acercaba al misterioso lugar, Ana sentía como la adrenalina aumentaba sus palpitaciones. Por fin podría ver en vivo la enigmática y ancestral composición que había admirado en reproducciones.

La acreditada pintura prehistórica fue descubierta a principios del siglo XX y se compone de cuarenta y cinco figuras. Diecinueve de ellas son animales posicionados en semicírculo y rodeando a nueve mujeres vestidas con una falda y con el pecho al aire. Todas ellas están de pie a ambos lados de un varón desnudo y claramente en celo, quizás representando un ritual relativo a la fecundación. En la copia en carboncillo hecha por Almagro, un conocido arqueólogo, se puede apreciar la escena en detalle, puesto que poco queda del original pintado en rojo y negro hace más de siete mil años.

El Sr. Alfóns le dio la bienvenida saliendo de su cabina, construida debajo de un hermoso árbol. El hombre cuida escrupulosamente del lugar declarado Patrimonio de la humanidad por UNESCO. Las imágenes parecían haber sido tragadas por la roca que les hace de lienzo, pero afortunadamente el guardián del enclave recordaba meticulosamente el emplazamiento de todas y cada una de las imágenes. Ayudado de un bastoncito, iba señalando con minuciosidad el lugar de todos y cada uno de los personajes escondidos en el muro. El tiempo y la falta de información de los aldeanos quienes a menudo frotaban las pinturas después de haberlas humedecido, habían casi borrado las representaciones pictóricas y poco a poco habían ido desapareciendo. Una poderosa orquesta de grillos sonaba atestiguando el calor extremo que hacía y sonando de música de fondo a las palabras del funcionario. La sequedad causada por el sol del verano aniquilaba cualquier posibilidad de ver las ancestrales iconografías en la árida superficie.
Era ese mismo sol de agosto el que amenazaba el largo recorrido de regreso al centro del pueblo y por ello el fiel guardián de las mujeres de Cogul se ofreció caballerosamente a llevarla en su vehículo. El próximo autobús a la estación del ferrocarril no salía hasta dentro de más de tres horas. Desde la empinada calle principal podían verse los destellos del agua de las piscinas municipales inauguradas hacia poco tiempo y allí la dejo el amable funcionario. Cruzado el umbral, Ana vio a una señora sentada en la entrada pelando patatas; la mujer la saludó con una sonrisa andaluza y pausada y entonces ella le preguntó si hacían comidas. Poco había para cocinar aparte del almuerzo para los que regentaban el local, dijo la mujer, pero una ensalada se podía improvisar. Varias mesas y sillas de plástico
blanco colocadas bajo las enormes encinas contrastaban con el verde de los árboles, mientras la tierra húmeda olía a césped bien cuidado y limpio. En un pueblo de poco más de cincuenta vecinos cualquier visitante se convierte en celebridad, especialmente si viene para admirar a sus mujeres pintadas. La andaluza le sugirió que disfrutara de un baño antes de comer, puesto que tardaría un poco la ensalada. Media docena de mujeres tomaban el sol placidamente sobre el césped que bordeaba la piscina. Ana se tumbó entre ellas y como era de esperar la curiosidad inició una conversación. Le sorprendió lo bellas que eran; la gran mayoría andaría entre los cuarenta y cincuenta años pero el tiempo había hecho poca mella en las féminas
cogulenses. Le contaron las intrigas y querellas locales y se hicieron responsables del deterioro de su patrimonio pictórico admitiendo que durante años y mientras las imágenes carecían de protección, las habían frotado con una escoba después de empaparlas con agua para hacerlas resaltar. Nadie era entonces consciente del daño que se les estaba causando.
Sentada entre las locuaces mujeres, en pocos minutos se sintió parte del agradable escenario. Iba a lanzarse al agua cuando oyó los gritos inocentes de una alegre chiquilla. El retoño corría afanosamente hacía el borde de la piscina seguido por su joven y viril padre de pelo en pecho, quien andaba apresurado detrás de ella. Un pequeño bañador acentuaba el culito redondo y rollizo de la graciosa criatura, heredado sin duda de su progenitor. El hombre entró en la piscina mientras la agraciada niña constantemente le daba instrucciones para que la recibiera en sus vuelos al agua. La suavidad de la segunda vocal le daba al idioma catalán un tono tan suave como
amoroso. La conversación consistía mayoritariamente de monosílabos y en ella se acreditaba un total acatamiento por parte del genitor. El hombre recibía a su retoño con precisión y talante y la niña se lanzaba incansable entre gritos de alegría y excitación.

La escena le recordó el enigmático ritual de las pinturas y por un instante le pareció estar contemplando una escena protocolar derivada de los frescos que guardaba el Sr. Alfons. Se zambullo e hizo varios largos y en los recorridos podía observar con precisión las embestidas de la niña contra el pecho de su padre. Con el fin de controlar, sin posibilidad de fallo, todos y cada uno de los lanzamientos de su hija, el hombre se posiciono de forma que en más de una ocasión el impacto de las pequeñas rodillas y pies debían de amoratarle la piel del torso. Si le dolía, no parecía percatarse. Aparte del devoto padre no había nadie más en el agua. Ana trató de imaginar esa misma escena reflejando el fuerte instinto de protección del leridano, siete milenios antes. ¿Existía entonces el amor paternal, o era acaso solamente instinto? ¿Cuántos hijos concibió el hombre del pene erecto de las pinturas? ¿Cuál era su relación con ellos? Su imaginación nadaba libremente bajo el agua trazando nuevos dibujos en la roca, cuando la llamaron a comer. Salió de la piscina bajo la mirada curiosa de las mujeres que a unisón le señalaron los vestuarios. Las dependencias carecían de puertas, aún y que las duchas, las piletas y todo lo demás funcionaban a la perfección. Sabido es que los presupuestos municipales a menudo terminan antes que las obras. La falta de privacidad que ofrecía el recinto carecía de importancia teniendo en cuenta que el único hombre del lugar era el devoto padre sumergido en la piscina y reducido a las demandas de su pimpollo. El agua fresca y limpia de la ducha la dejo libre de cloro; relajada y hambrienta se dirigió a la mesa donde la suculenta ensalada la estaba esperando.

A distancia y bajo la sombra de la encina, la idílica escena entre padre e hija parecía incluso más entrañable.

“Va pare, va, una altra vegada, més, més!”

“Reina, que estic cansat. Ara prou, ara prou”

“No, no. Més, més. Una altra vegada, una altra vegada i prou, eh? Va, vinga,


Ana le sonrió a la matrona andaluza mientras esta vaciaba una Voll-Damm en un clásico vaso de cristal cubierto de hielo.

“Es mi nieta, dijo la mujer con una sonrisa de oreja a oreja”
“Su pobre hijo estará exhausto. La niña es incansable!” –le respondió Ana–
“No es mi hijo, es mi yerno. Desde que empezó las vacaciones viene todas las mañanas con la niña antes de comer. Con su mujer no han podido coger los mismos días, ella trabaja en Lérida, viene en el autobús que estás esperando tú”

Devorando la ensalada y acomodada en la silla, sorbía la cerveza mientras la llenaba una sensación de relajamiento y comodidad. Echo mano a su mochilla buscando la novela de Kureishi que había empezado a leer en el tren desde Barcelona. “El Buda de los Suburbios” describía cómicamente un Londres asiático inundado de sagas familiares y conflictos sociales. Pidió un café mientras observaba al yerno y a la nieta de la hospitalaria andaluza dirigiéndose a los vestuarios y al poco rato dejando el recinto. De nuevo en el lugar escaseaba la presencia masculina y fue justo entonces cuando el último personaje retratado en la roca hizo su entrada. Debió de ser la cara pasmada de Ana lo que imbuyo a la camarera -de pie delante de ella y sosteniendo una taza de café- a explicar que el muchacho trabajaba de salvavidas para la piscina. Poco tenía el varón a envidiar a las esculturas griegas de antaño. Quiso la providencia que se sentara en el ángulo perfecto donde podía observarle mientras bebía el amargo café. El muchacho leía con afán; probablemente las notas de algún importante examen. Se había sentado bajo otra encina colocada estratégicamente detrás de la piscina y desde donde divisaba y controlaba el desenlace de las bañistas con toda comodidad.
Hacía rato que había terminado el café, entretanto Karim Amir, el protagonista de su lectura, la había trasladado a la capital británica. Los relatos de Kureishi le hicieron olvidar momentáneamente la presencia del hermoso mancebo, único representante del genero varonil en el lugar. Ana dirigía su atención al interior del chiringuito para solicitar la cuenta, cuando una sombra envolvió el blanco de su mesa. Volteó la cabeza y allí estaba el salvavidas; recio y bronceado, fuerte y joven y con una sonrisa inexorablemente seductora. Se lo quedo mirando inquisitivamente y por un momento quiso creerse que de las nueve mujeres la había elegido a ella.