Béla Teiwes


the Netherlands, 1998


Thesis: In These Shapes

We call ‘negative hands’, the hands found on the walls of the Magdalenian caves of sub-atlantic Europe. These hands were just pressed upon the rock, after having been covered with colour. Usually, they were black, or blue. No explanation has been found for this practice.”
Negative hands, Marguerite Duras, 1978
Your baby had caught a fever, and we had to cancel the studio visit. We met on Skype instead. He was sitting on your lap when I called, and you said that he was feeling much better already. He looked at the screen with round eyes and every time you spoke, he spoke too. His participation became more meaningful once you told me that you had worked together on some of your paintings. From then on, the three of us had a cheerful and fruitful conversation.
There is a “grotesque” quality to your paintings. I don’t mean grotesque as in absurd. I mean grotesque as in eerie, fantastic or uncanny—which is its original meaning. Grotesque stems from the Italian word grottesco, literally “of a cave”. And that’s exactly where your paintings take me, to the polymorphous and subversive realm of the underworld.
A recent study revealed that cave paintings were most certainly accomplished by women, and not by men, as it was predominantly assumed. By analysing the prints of negative and positive hands present in the Cuevas de El Castillo in Spain and in the Pech Merle caves and the Caves of Gargas in France, anthropologists came to the realisation that most of the hands were those of women. In another study researchers have uncovered evidence that children as young as two decorated French caves with markings known as finger flutings.
These facts overturn decades of archaeological dogma, dominated by male scholars' ideologies, which in turn reshape the entire art history narrative. The simple question “what if cave art is the oeuvre of women and children?” is a prehistoric time bomb. I am not a prehistorian, but my guts tell me this makes perfect sense, and your work strengthens my opinion.