Marcus Bowcott



The Palimpsest Installation is the result of an off the cuff remark I made during a slide lecture in a drawing class. The slide on the screen happened to be a cave painting of a wounded bison, the painting was made about 17,000 years ago. The topic of discussion in the drawing class was mark-making, I was commenting on the variation of line and the wonderful contrast of thick and thin marks. I mentioned that the slide we were viewing was but a pale imitation of the real painting. Slide images are thin, hovering and ethereal in relation to the visceral physicality of the cave paintings (or any first rate painting for that matter).

I compared the light on the slide screen to a cooking fire in a prehistoric cave and said that in order to really grasp the physicality and the energy of the painting one should imagine this slide projected onto the side of a live Brahma bull... Upon saying that I couldn't resist the temptation of putting a live bull in an art gallery.

I proposed this exhibition to a few different galleries, one, the grunt, an alternate artist run gallery, the other an upscale commercial "Fine Art Auction House". The grunt was interested in the project from the start, not surprisingly the Fine Art Auction House declined.

The installation took place at the grunt in 1999, there were two distinct aspects to it. The first was a tableau of a live bull in the darkened gallery, slides of cave paintings and images of labyrinths were projected onto the side of the living, breathing animal. The second aspect consisted of an exhibition of my interpretations of contemporary and historical images relating to this creature.

A few comments regarding the cave paintings and this installation: The cave paintings were made in approximately 15,000 B.C.. The paintings are, as far as we know, the first known representations ever made by humans. This development of the ability to represent was an incredible feat in the evolution of the human consciousness. These representations are the first indications of the human capacity to use abstract form and symbol in order to express a sense of reflective awareness. The cave paintings are sophisticated images in terms of representation, form and symbol: they are naturalistic in that they convincingly represent the animal's proportions, pose and movement. Formally, they are unsurpassed in their expressive use of line and texture.

In terms of symbolism, the animal's energy and vitality are clearly conveyed through the vigorous use of line. It is widely believed by anthropologists and historians that the artist/hunter considered the paintings to be magical, that the artist gained power - an immanent communion with the spirit of the animal - by representing it in a realistic manner. Pictures, like words were - and are - used to cast spells and charms. This installation embodies 20,000 years of image compression, it finds the prehistoric in the modern, the ethereal in the material world, the wild in the captive, attainment in desire and reflection in projection.

Palimpsest - installation view

Palimpsest tableau, photo M. Addison

Palimpsest tableau, photo M. Addison

The Halls of Theseum

Taurus Reductio



On the Horns of a Dilemma


©2007 Marcus Bowcott