Sunday, 18 December 2011

Delicate elephant steps

Finding out where an artist turns for inspiration can often raise a smile. For instance, I love the fact that the little door in Alice in Wonderland giving a glimpse of a beautiful and unreachable garden, is based on the door cut in wall of Oxfords Christchurch Chapel, so that the real life Alice’s father could get easily from his garden into the main part of the college.

So it was a pleasure to find out why a good friend of ours in Strasbourg, Marie-Paule Lesage, decided to include images of elephants in her engravings.

She came across elephants during two trips to Laos. The first taught her to admire and delight in the paradox of the delicacy and lightness of these huge animals. She decided to go back and produce engravings based on elephants – and then have them help her with the printing, by getting them to press the plates under their feet.

But it turned out to be an uphill task. Elephants are fastidiously careful about where they put their feet, and very sensitive about who touches them. Having given up trying to get an elephant to help her with her printing, Marie-Paule decided just to try to draw outlines of their feet on the wooden plates, but even that proved elusive work.

Lively dance between artist and elephant
Her film shows how the elephant would place a foot briefly on a sheet of plywood and, as soon as she felt Marie-Paule’s pencil drawing around her toes, she would pull it back.

The result? Thin, floating, eery lines, overlapping each other and painting a picture of this strange dance between a gentle giant and an artist.

Marie-Paule Lesage tracings of an elephant's foot

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