In 2013 I was asked by artist Johan Thom to be part of a project, later to be named ‘The Animal Series – 2013-2014’. He produced a set of five large-scale etchings and four of these were assigned to chosen artists to interact with, Johan reserving one of them for his own furtherance. The other three artists in the collaboration were Diane Victor, David Koloane and Bevan de Wet.
Central to this series of works is Johan’s ongoing investigation of his own material encounter with an African elephant skull. A bullet hole could clearly be seen in the skull.
Each artist was asked to create an aesthetic response to the elephant skull. Johan would first work on the plate by scratching its surface with the skull. After this, the plate was given to the collaborating artist to work over and layer by adding further marks, visual or conceptual elements, drawn from the encounter.
My own sensitivity towards big game hunting and cruelty to animals made this an attractive project to me. I attended Johan’s ‘wrestling’ with the enormous skull on the bronze plate intended for me. He rotated and spun the skull with great effort backwards and forwards on the plate and the resulting print shows what appears to be a crisscross of scrapes and circular blood stains, the aftermath of a most violent encounter.
I was most impressed with Johan’s work. It invoked in me an empathy with the plight of the slaughtered animal. I could not get myself to interfere directly with his dynamic graphic image and decided to overlay it with a transparent sheet of extruded acrylic. This floated above the image so that one would always be able to see the ink marks exactly the way he constituted them, thereby retaining the print’s integrity.
My overlay is in the form of thin geometric lines of numerous small black beads with senseless white letters imprinted on them. Together these lines create the calibrated sight set at the end of a rifle barrel over Johan’s circular marks of savagery – a reminder of how the beast was shot. My title for the work ELEPHANT PEEPSITE plays with a rifle’s peep sight and a ‘peep’ at the ‘site’ or place where the colossus was brought down.