“Jojo stands in front of the canvas and stares, waiting for the spark of inspiration to guide the paintbrush. The 20-year-old is one of the most talented of his peers, producing critically acclaimed works, which have fetched thousands of dollars...What makes the young artist unique, other than his distinctive paintings, is that he paints with a trunk...” - The Cultureist
Indeed, Jojo is a 9000-pound elephant with a knack for painting art at The Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC) in Lampang, Thailand. The TECC, known for its work in elephant conservation science, is a 19-year-old government institution primarily focused on the care and well-being of Thailand’s elephants, 2,700 of which live on private grounds. They operate an onsite hospital and Thailand's first mobile clinic which treats sick and injured elephants free of charge.
“It's often a shock for people when they find out that Asian elephants are an endangered species, but sadly this is a fact. If something isn't done to halt the rapid decline in numbers, it is likely that within the next 50 years, this amazing creature will be gone forever,” said Issarapom Kaewthanasawad, Director of The Elephant Art Gallery (TEAG).
Elephant art is a creative solution to a dire problem. TEAG works in conjunction with the Thai Elephant Conservation Center to sell the paintings, in order to raise awareness and funds for the preservation of this endangered species.
While the elephants are painting, they don't just wave their trunks around in the air, splashing paint onto the paper in a 'hit and miss' fashion. On the contrary, they clearly have the spatial awareness to carefully apply the strokes within the confines of the paper, rarely going over the edges except, one can assume, as an artistic gesture.
“Elephant art is an original painting that is created by an elephant of its own volition, unaided in the creative process by humans. The ‘unaided’ part is the key to what makes one painting a work of art (and truly amazing) and another painting a poor imitation (and at worst simply a hoax),” said Kaewthanasawad.
“No two paintings are the same and like all abstract art, none depict recognisable objects or images. This is elephant art at its purest. This is real art.”
Each elephant painting is an original.