Editor Obsession: Asian Elephant Art

We’re decorating our walls with works from the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project.

Apr 19, 2013
  • Noppakhao painting at his sanctuary in Thailand
  • A painting by Noppakhao, Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project
  • A panting by Lakshmi of the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project, Sri Lanka
  • A painting by Lakshmi of the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project, Sri Lanka
  • A painting by Yod Yeam of the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project, Thailand
  • A painting by Ging Gaow of the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project, Thailand
  • Sela of the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project, Indonesia
1/7
Noppakhao, a Thai elephant whose name means “the nine colours of gemstones,” has created an impressive collection of paintings featuring elephants, flowers and people.
Photography courtesy David Ferris, AEACP
2/7
Noppakhao’s Number 084 depicts an elephant walking through a field of flowers.
Photography courtesy David Ferris, AEACP
3/7
Number 024 by Lakshmi, an elephant from Sri Lanka who starred in Tarzan with Bo Derek, is one of this editor’s current obsessions.
Photography courtesy David Ferris, AEACP
4/7
Lakshmi is also the creator of Number 035, an abstract work in rust, yellow and blue.
Photography courtesy David Ferris, AEACP
5/7
From his sanctuary in Thailand, Yod Yeam paints the majority of his works on environmentally friendly elephant dung paper.
Photography courtesy David Ferris, AEACP
6/7
Another Thai elephant named Ging Gaow enjoys splattering and dripping paint onto his canvas, which is most often elephant dung paper.
Photography courtesy David Ferris, AEACP
7/7
An Indonesian elephant named Sela holds her brush with the tip of her trunk to paint works such as Number 367.
Photography courtesy David Ferris, AEACP

An obsession from my past has come back to haunt me. I’m the proud owner of an original Nom Chok, and I’ve bought the book by Komar and Melamid about teaching complete novices—all of whom are elephants—to paint.

The artists in question are domesticated Asian elephants, working with non-toxic paints when inspiration strikes, doing their part for the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project, an organization whose mission is to raise awareness for the elephant populations of Southeast Asia. Some of the paintings show flowers or elephants, but I’m drawn to the abstracts, for which the animals don’t imitate movements but slap, swoosh and dab the paint however they like.

Rani, a rescued orphan with a playful/cheerful mien, has done some appealing work lately in an autumnal palette of green, brown and blue. Yod Yeam, slow but strong, has developed a technique that lands short, chunky brush-strokes on sheets of textured, environmentally friendly and odorless paper made on site with elephant dung. And Lakshmi, who starred in Tarzan with Bo Derek, has some terrifically energetic pieces. Today I’ve narrowed down my choice to either her Number 024, a horizontal burst of grass green and yellow, or Number 035, leaping flames of rust, yellow and blue. Tomorrow, who knows?

Discover what Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle is doing to protect elephants, and learn how you can help.


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