CHARACTERISTICS OF PRIMITIVE ART
Inadequate technical means are not necessarily characteristic of primitive art. On the contrary the materials in which the primitive artist works--stone, ivory, bone, wood, clay and metal--are largely the same as those of the European artist. Even in painting, the mineral colours and vegetable and even animal dyes are in many cases similar.
The means at the disposal of the primitive artist belong to his cultural level, and to his surroundings. In an African shrine or temple an oil painting on canvas would be both historically untrue and æsthetically unpleasing. Primitive methods vary considerably; yet we find similar techniques applied in altogether different areas. The method of sculpture in wood, for example, is predominantly chopping, not carving. The tool is a kind of adze. The result in the finished piece is a faceted surface showing the unplaned marks of the tool. This technique is prevalent in Western and Southern Africa, New Guinea and Northwest America.
The aim of the primitive artist is good craftsmanship. The conditions under which he works are different from those of his "civilised" colleague. Before he can begin an artistic work he has first to collect, manufacture and prepare his tools and his material, and usually he has to do all this single-handed.
Take, for example, the North American Indian painter. Among the Plains Indians it is the women who are responsible for the geometric type of decorative art. The men confine themselves to representative paintings. In both cases plants or minerals must be collected to provide the paints. They must then be boiled or ground and mixed