Humankind has lived in caves for as long as we can remember, with some places showing traces of human habitation for 70,000 years -- so it's no wonder that even today, we are still drawn to intimate, cave-like dwellings. Cave art made its appearance about 40,000 years ago, and even today, it still resonates with us.
It's this unbroken link to the mythical past that the work of French artist Julien Salaud speaks to: using only string and ultraviolet light, Salaud creates complex skyscapes depicting constellated forms of animals and mythical figures, reminding us of a time when our ancestors took shelter in caves, telling great, timeless stories about the natural world.
In his "Stellar Cave" installation, though the work is located in a gallery, the contrast between the glowing lines and the space's darkness nevertheless evokes a feeling of being in a dark, sheltered space. To achieve this mesmerizing effect, Salaud uses strings that have been dipped in UV-reactive paint, and stretches them between a network of nails to outline various forms. Ultraviolet light shines on the forms, giving them visible life and illuminating the cave's darkness.
Here's the description from the Hezliya Museum of Contemporary Art, where Stellar Cave was recently exhibited:
The Stellar Cave created by Julien Salaud invites the viewers into a space that encompasses a combination of nature and culture, shamanism, mysticism, and beauty, all of which are in dialogue with body culture in contemporary art. [..] These figures seem to have been captured by the web of threads, which defines
not only their movement but also its limits. [..] Salaud's works pursue different aspects of metamorphosis, which to his mind is an underlying evolutionary principle that propels and enables the development of new life forms and countless forms intertwined and death is but a transitional stage in the universe's never-ending cycles of life.
Simple but powerful, Stellar Cave is a remarkable installation that conjures up a sense of wonder and magic that is enduring and universal, and also challenges the construct of the rational, "modern man." After all, humans still have an irresistible need for stories and meaning, and nothing makes you wonder as much as a clear, starry night sky, populated by the creatures of our imagination. You can see more of Julien Salaud's work here.