In the light of economical inability in developing countries, art and design came to a point where they became a luxury rather than a necessity. The importance of art was forgotten along with the fact that it has always been a crucial part in man’s dwellings.

Art, as old as human history decorates the walls of caves; an indicator of intelligent life form in this specific place. Ever since the Renaissance era, however, art was only found in the dwellings of those with a high social stature; owning more decorations and paintings meant having more power and a higher position within society. To some extent, this phenomenon is still present nowadays. And even though technological advances have allowed the mass productions of illustrations and printed copies of well known paintings, not many people are interested in acquiring them.

Aside from the economical reasons that play a part in the decline of owning art, the emergence of the Modernist movement resulted in Architecture becoming the most sought-after artwork with its shape and its solid/void relation, further marginalizing having plastic arts in residences.

In order to understand why art is an important feature in houses we first have to understand the difference between a house and a home.

A house is the physical building that humans inhibit. A Home, however, has multiple meanings. Home is a place that offers haven, order, identity, connectedness, warmth and physical suitability. It is the place one feels connected to, spiritually and emotionally rather than being a place one simply lives in. When art is integrated in one’s house, especially art pieces that are relatable and are pleasant to look at, it helps in making it more of a home. If art truly has the power to make one feel more at home, then is it possible that primitive people drew on the walls of caves for that specific reason?

The Artistic Caveman:

Hand prints found in Lascaux cave discovered in 1940, France

Since the dawn of time, humans have showed interest in art. The most shocking and interesting example of all is perhaps the paintings in Paleolithic caves (earliest painting dating to 35,000 years ago).

One of the most important caves to have contained cave paintings are the Lascaux caves that are located near the village of Montignac in France. They contain about 2000 figures painted on the rocks of the cave which are estimated to be 17,300 years old. The figures are categorized into: Animals, Human figures and Abstract signs.

Animal drawings found in Lascaux cave discovered in 1940, France
Hand prints found in Lascaux cave discovered in 1940, France

A lot of theories were made as to why cave paintings were made. Some theorize that they were some sort of magical ritual, others say they root from a human’s self-expressive nature, or even the work of shamans. The most convincing theory is that they were painted as part of a ritual. Theorists may have excluded the idea that it might have been made only for its aesthetic factors due to the effort put in their making, but we cannot overlook the fact that these primitive people were documenting their daily lives, creating their own calendar and sometimes, leaving their fingerprints on the walls of their living spaces.

Hand prints found in Lascaux cave discovered in 1940, France

An interesting theory to take into consideration is that these drawings might be the primitive man’s way of defining his own territory, especially since such behaviour has been exhibited in modern times.

The Art of Territoriality:

Territory is important for all living beings. It is essential for a having a comfortable living environment. Current laws that restrict and protect property ownership is a form of defining territory. Throughout time, other forms of territorial definition have also been used, including art. A current example resides in the streets of San Pedro. San Pedro is considered to be one of the most violent cities in the world. Gangs have taken control over parts of its neighbourhood and claimed it their own through certain graffiti drawn on the walls engulfing the streets, so that other gangs won’t impose on their area.

Graffiti mural in San Pedro
Graffiti mural in San Pedro

With gangs gone loose on the streets, children had nowhere to play safely. Parks and play areas were all claimed by a gang or another. Luckily, in a city filled with drugs, murder and despair, a few anonymous graffiti artists stood up to the injustice that is happening. They initiated an art project where they began painting over the logos of gangs, and drew happy drawings in some areas to let the children know that this area was safe enough to play in.

Graffiti mural in San Pedro

Territorial definition doesn’t only take place on an urban scale, it can also occur in a space as small as a bedroom. Different people feel at home in different places. Some might decorate their walls with photographs of their childhood, some might decorate their walls with colorful paintings and some might prefer a simple and plain room with warm colors. However, the way one deals with the space is one way of self-expression and a unique art. It is a way of defining a space as one’s own in the sense that it reflects one’s true self and interests.

Graffiti mural in San Pedro

It might have been our ancestors’ need for a territory of their own that lead them to search for a place to live in. Then maybe these dwellings needed to become more than physical spaces; they needed to become homes. Maybe that is the urge that allowed art to come to life in the first place. Some may deem art to be of no purpose at all, but history and even current events seem to be indicating otherwise.

The absence of art in houses may seem to cause no physical problem that one has to deal with, but it is needed nonetheless. William Shakespeare may have claimed that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but so is art. The coexistence of Art and Territoriality throughout history cannot be ignored, it is embedded in our nature.

All images courtesy indicated in captions.


Lubna Aqel
Lubna Aqel

I’m an Architect, writer, and a full-time awkward human being with a particular interest in Art, Philosophy, and Sociology. I find great pleasure in making-up wacky theories and interpreting social phenomena and weird occurrences.
Disclaimer: nothing makes me more furious than those who deem art unnecessary.

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