April Young talks about her concerns over the declining elephant population...
The original machine in the natural world
I've long been fascinated with the relationship between man and beast, being a great lover of horses. Whereas I'd always looked at the direct interaction with the horse - as the original machine - until now I'd never given much thought to the more subtle, yet utterly vital indirect relationships with the rest of the natural world.
The ticking of time
It was this notion of man's commodification of animals, even wild ones that gave rise to the idea of expressing the elephant by combining its connotation of memory, with the recklessness of their treatment as a product. I recognised the irony that both elements were to do with time, both the passing of time into memory, and the species conservation being time critical. I found myself drawn to old time pieces, firstly a French clock movement, then various Georgian and Victorian clock winding keys both ornate and humble, which I made plaster moulds of to transform them into my favourite malleable material - clay.
Capturing both strength and vulnerability
Making the many pieces fit together, and yet still retain the much loved features of our wise giant was quite a challenge. I decided that a solid pose showing strength but vulnerability was where I wanted to head. I studied armoured animals, in particular, Henry the VIII's suits of armour for his horses, and this became the basis for the surface design, made from the winding keys as fixed, armoured sections, whilst the moving parts of the elephant were constructed from the clock movements and cogs. I think the result is a piece that is strangely both naturalistic and industrial, and both futuristic yet nostalgic.
A dwindling species
Throughout the creative process I often wondered how much time we have left before things become critical. It must not happen that a beast which is best known for having a great memory, will actually itself become one. I will be donating a percentage of the sale of each piece to the Tusk Foundation.