Elephants are truly majestic and amazing creatures aren’t they? Intelligent and soulful and one of the greats which wonder the Earth, yet there are some that still feel that their tusks are better used by humans than by the elephant themselves. Without getting on my high horse about it, no one needs an elephants tusk… for medicine, decoration or otherwise, other than the elephant; I find it unbelievable that as we approach 2019, there are still those who hunt elephants for fun or for some unbelievable purpose. I mean, what size gun do you need to take down an elephant and why are we still selling them?… Okay, I digress, as this isn’t a post about my personal feelings on game hunters, but to look at the amazing art which has been created by Wittfooth and his message.
I have written about Wittfooth before, because I think is technique and content is amazing. He blends an almost classical style with a surrealism to bring his audience a juxtaposition of fine art with lowbrow tones.
Martin Wittfooth was born in Toronto in 1981, but spent a lot of his childhood in Finland, moving back to Toronto in 1993 where he earned his BAA in Illustration from Sheridan College in 2003. He now resides in New York City, where he earned his MFA at the School of Visual Arts.
Wittfooth’s oil paintings explore disquieting themes of industry and nature, unhinged evolution, the clash of old ideologies with modern fears, and the growing shadow of the human footprint on the earth. This piece really does explore the disconnect between human and nature.
The piece is highly atmospheric, almost echoing the technique of Caravaggio, by only having the central point lit, with the background blacked out, leading the audience to only view the elephant and flowers. At first glance it seems beautiful, but on closer inspection it has dark undertones. There is a clear narrative to the piece, about the fate of the elephant, which implores you to question the status quo that we live in, and challenge what is around us.
The elephant has been decorated and bridled, a reflection of mans intrusion on the the natural world, as we utilise elephants for our own gains (I mean you only have to watch “Dumbo” to know that we used elephants for our one entertainment at one time, and their sheer size deemed them an asset in industry in the past). We should also remember that in India, elephants are worshiped (I say this as it is an Indian elephant in the picture – smaller ears), with the God Ganesh. It is quite an interesting correlation between this picture and how we see Ganesh:-
What I find most interesting is the tusks in this picture, as it shows one is broken – an indication of sacrifice for good cause, the other is short – indicative of the species (African elephants have much longer tusks). In Wittfooth’s much starker image both tusks are blunted, maybe indicating that the sacrifice was not for good reason, and the eyes are almost blacked out, giving a deathly feel to the mighty beast.
The flowers beneath the trunk, are almost like an alter, but again, reflect the image of Ganesh, seated within the lotus flower – a symbol of purity. The hummingbirds, usually symbolising finding the lighter side of life as they actively hunt out the sweetest nectar, perhaps is the human influence within this painting, we are merrily going about our business while, the elephant – the god that walks the Earth suffers at our expense.
Wittfooth magically brings us this message, without a human being within the painting, yet the narrative is so clear – we should proceed in our current path with caution.
Wittfooth says about his own work:-
“My work is most recognised for exploring the confused relationship between our species and the rest of the natural world, depicted in animal allegories. This is an issue that weighs heavily on our times and is one that I feel compelled to process through my work.”
I love the work of this incredibly talented and socially aware artist. If you would like to see more of his work you can find it here.
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