Monday, November 14, 2011

Elephant Parade Singapore - Trumpetting A Cause With Art

Not since an overly-enthusiastic visitor swam across the Johor Straits to Pulau Ubin in 1991 (and yes, he did bring his trunk *) has the Red Dot Island seen so many pachyderms stampeding its shores.

Well, not until last Friday.

11th November was the start of Elephant Parade Singapore. The Elephant Parade is the largest open-air exhibition worldwide and the high-profile event has made its rounds in several European countries like London, Amsterdam and Milan, over the years. It finally makes its first Asian stomp on Red Dot Island this year.

Up till 11th January 2012, these hand-painted life-sized elephant art statues are stationed all around the island - from glitzy Marina Bay to Vivocity to Singapore Art Museum to the shopping places around Orchard Road and in the semi-wilderness of the Singapore Zoological Gardens. Just to name a few!

While heading back from yoga last Saturday afternoon, Red Dot Diva stumbled upon a few of them peacefully enjoying their choice spots in the light drizzle at the usually crowded Raffles Place Green.

The Elephant Parade aims to build more public awareness and support for the fate of elephants around the world. This year, the organization joined hands with The Asian Elephant Foundation as it works with various projects and organizations dedicated to the conservation of the Asian elephant.

The Asian elephant is widely domesticated around the continent and working elephants around Asia do suffer from injuries or need hospital care. These issues exist while their wild counterparts continue to battle poaching and are in danger of extinction.

Several overseas and local celebrities and designers have got their hands involved with these art elephants. Familiar names include Ricky Gervais, Rupert Grint, Leona Lewis, Solange Azagury-Patridge and Joss Stone, and local personalities who contributed to their works of elephant art include Dick Lee, Glenn Goei, Gaurav Kripalani, Nadya Hutagalung and Bobby Chinn.

Even local-based comics artist Sonny Liew ("Liquid City", "Malinky Robot") has added an elephant called "Elephant Memory" (or Ele for short) to the herd.

Red Dot Diva cheers: W000t!! Geek Represent!!

When she found out that Sonny had put his stamp of artistic talent to the cause, she asked him to share a little about his involvement in Elephant Parade Singapore 2011.

Sonny Liew's Ele
Red Dot Diva: Sonny, what did you find most difficult in painting an actual 3D object?
Sonny Liew: Well... the planning was different from 2D paintings. With the latter you could figure out the design in its entirety. With the elephant, it was a trickier especially with how things are connected from, say, the frontal to the side profile. The underbelly was especially tricky because of the way the character's (Elephant Memory Man) appendages were supposed to loop round the stomach and elephant legs in all sorts of directions. It was something I had to work out on the elephant itself, and I couldn't plan it beforehand.

Figuring out the materials to use was tricky too. I ended up using a mixture of oils, acrylics and spray paints.

Red Dot Diva: Was there another elephant statue you saw during the parade that you really loved? and why?
Sonny Liew: I actually missed the opening, so I only got to flip through the book whilst at Vivocity. Based on those, I liked some of the heavily patterned ones like Andre Tempel's Siegfried and Om Mee Ai's Lacey, but also, some of the ones with a rougher more painterly feel like Kamol Tamsriwan's Human. I guess both involve different processes from my own approach that I find interesting. The patterned ones feel like they involve some sort of commercial process whilst the others have a raw feel to them. It is generally just fascinating to consider different approaches to the same challenges of painting an elephant :)

Red Dot Diva: What made you decide to participate actively in this event?
Sonny Liew: I've always leaned towards environmental issues - from recycling to using your own bags for shopping and not eating meat. So, it was an easy sell - doing something to help the preservation of elephants. I remember seeing one at the Night Safari not long ago and it was just awesome. Animals really remind us of our connection with nature, or at least they should. It's a connection that get very lost in the world we've built up around us; human beings have separated themselves too much from the rest of life, as I think the recent news of 7 billion humans and the extinction of the western black rhino would indicate.

Sonny Liew has written more details about his Ele experience on his own blog. Red Dot Diva thinks it is an interesting personal account, so go check it out here!

Sonny's cute geeky Ele is stationed at Vivocity with many of her other elephant friends, which includes the wizardly one by Rupert Grint named "Sir Richard The III". Who would have thought Rupert was such a clever and meaningful artist??

For a route map of all the elephants that can be found around the island, click to this link!

Simond Chew's ele was found at Fullerton Hotel
With all these varied and unique pieces of art adding a blaze of colour to the city, Red Dot Diva is quite pumped up about doing her bit of "elephant-spotting". Other than Sonny's and Rupert's elephants, she is eager to check out Dick Lee's vibrantly striped fuschia "Zelda Zelliphant", and that comical but quintessentially South-East Asian themed "Delightful Durian" by Nat Posila and Ed Robinson.

Of course, attempting to view all of the statues will be a very time-consuming tusk task, so thanks to the practical wisdom of the organizers, the entire herd of elephants will be placed at the Singapore Botanical Gardens from 8th to 11th January 2012.

After which, the arty elephant statues will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s at two private auction events in January 2012. 20% will be donated to The Asian Elephant Foundation and 5% to Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund from the auction revenues.

For those who are less flushed with cash, one can choose to contribute to the cause by purchasing the limited edition, hand painted replica souvenirs. These 10 cm to 75 cm high mini elephants are painted by professional fine artists from Chiang Mai, Thailand, and can be found at the Elephant Parade Gallery Stores at TANGS Orchard/ VivoCity or at Elephant Parade's online shop.

Instead of seeing more fuzzy pink elephants from all that festive partying, Red Dot Diva urges everyone to spare some thought for the plight of the Asian elephant, and give a warm, jumbo-sized support to the colourful Elephant Parade Singapore 2011.

Besides, it will also be a fun city-safari adventure to find as many ele's as one possibly can!


* Red Dot Diva's note: There was indeed a bull Asian elephant who made quite an appearance at Pulau Ubin back in 1991. One can read the story archived here.

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