The recent discovery of the cave paintings in Chauvet, France, and their sophistication , reinforces the idea that art doesn’t progress but merely records the amazement of humans at their surroundings at any particular time. Something in the structure of brains (and a huge part of the brain is allocated to visual processing) delights in the play of line, color, and form, and reconstructing sensoria into recognisable images. Our brains have not changed appreciably since then. Close up, all paintings are abstract, step back, and the brain imposes a pattern. Its the rhythm of the process of creating a painting itself. Lean in, step back.
There is also something shamanistic going on, particularly in the communal activity of an exhibition, a sharing of the transcendent in everyday life. Look! Everything we see, worn thin by thousands of eyes, is extraordinary, from the humble clapboarded house with the satellite dish, to the endless pulse of commuters hurrying to jobs in the rain.