Red dots at the Hamilton Gallery

Eoin Mac Lochlainn at the Hamilton Gallery, Sligo

Diaspora - Eoin Mac Lochlainn at the Hamilton Gallery, Sligo

Diaspora - Eoin Mac Lochlainn at the Hamilton Gallery, Sligo
Installation shots of “Diaspora” at the Hamilton Gallery, Sligo. Photos by Morgan Bonel

Ah yes, red dots on the gallery wall. It means that the paintings have been sold (!) but where did this idea come from? When did it start and who started it?  Well, you mightn’t believe this but… we could be talking about 40,000 years ago and – Neanderthal man (or woman)!

I was thinking about these little red dots recently because of my exhibition “Diaspora”, at the Hamilton Gallery in Sligo for the month of October. (If you see a yellow dot, by the way, that means a 24-hour hold has been placed by a prospective purchaser; and blue dots indicate that the painting is not for sale at all, at all).  But nobody seems to know the origin of the red dot…

The oldest drawings in the world

But I was reading about Cave art, and about the oldest carbon-dated examples in the world. For instance, the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave in the Ardèche department in southern France has some wonderful cave drawings but older still, according to New Scientist – the oldest confirmed Cave art in the world is in El Castillo cave in Spain.  (This was dated using a new process involving uranium/thorium).

And the oldest mark there was a red dot (!) which was over 40,000 years old!

Did this mean that the painting of the bison or the hand prints (seen below) had been sold?  Or was the red dot simply a trial run, an experiment perhaps?  Who knows?  Probably not. But no, the question that the scientists were asking was: Was it produced by Homo Sapiens or by a Neaderthal? They say that Homo Sapiens arrived in Europe from Africa between 42,000 and 40,000 years ago so it could’ve been one of them (although they didn’t do cave drawings in Africa until a later date) – so there’s a good chance that there was a Neanderthal artist in residence in this Spanish cave for a term.

photo by Pedro Saura of Cave art in the El Castillo cave in Spain
Cave art in El Castillo cave, Spain. Photo by Pedro Saura

Whatever the truth, it’s clear that drawing and painting is as old as the hills (almost). Isn’t it amazing that artists still use some of the same materials today, the red and yellow ochres, the charcoal and such, as they did back then?   Of course, I was only joking about the red dots.  Most Cave art consists of symbols and dots and simple markings – unlikely to have had anything to do with sales and marketing… But does anyone out there in Bloggyland actually know?  Your comments are always welcome…



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