I was never a keen student of art at school. I’ve always liked looking at art, but I’ve never been good at creating art.
Still, studying great art always left me with the same feeling as studying great literature. I knew it was important. I knew there was more to see than simple aesthetic appeal. But I would never put my finger on why.
Fifteen years too late for my art career, I believe I have an answer.
This figure of a lion man was found in Eastern Europe. Experts believe it is 35,000 years old. This date coincides with the first archaeological evidence of modern humans entering Europe.
When modern humans (homo sapiens) first entered Europe, Europe was already occupied by another human species called Neanderthals. Neanderthals were bigger than us. They had bigger brains, and better tools. They were better adapted to the cold.
So why did modern humans survive, and Neanderthals die out?
These images are painted onto the wall of a cave called Pech Merle, in France. They date to around 25,000BC, near the peak of the last ice age.
The animal paintings most obviously refer to food, but are also thought to be symbolic or spiritual. Pech Merle could be an early stone-age temple.
This carving was excavated at a site called Gobekli Tepe, in modern Turkey. The site dates to 12,000 years old, which is twice as old as the Egyptian pyramids. Gobekli Tepe is one of the first examples of a settled hunter-gatherer site.
Settled sites eventually led to the neolithic, or farming revolution, and eventually to towns and cities.
What does all this mean? Look at the clues:
- All stone-age cultures of modern humans considered art of high importance.
- All modern indigenous peoples use art as a central part of their culture, and their identity.
- Perhaps most importantly, similar copies of the lion man were found at sites 30-50KM apart. That’s a long way on foot.
The early tribes of modern humans were never fully isolated. Unlike Neanderthals, who lived in small isolated tribes, modern humans across fairly large areas seem to have shared an identity and culture through their art.
We think we’re so different, now we have the internet and modern lifestyles. But perhaps it is now easier, in the age of ‘constant internet connection’, to become more isolated than ever before. Technology can enable, but it can also entrap.
You don’t have to paint on a cave wall to create art in the modern world. Creating a valuable business is a work of art. Writing a regular newsletter is a work of art. Creating a visually appealing lead magnet that actually works, is a work of art.
Ultimately great art still has the same purpose; to create a shared culture and identity. To allow far-flung people to identify with you, and come a little deeper into your world.
Don’t neglect art in your business. It may matter more than you think.