Artist Yusof Gajah draws inspiration from these gentle animals for his works. SUZANNA PILLAY writes.
TO most people, the humble elephant is just another creature that calls the jungle home. But for Malaysian artist Yusof Gajah, the animal has come to represent much more.
Apart from being a versatile muse for Yusof’s art, it is now synonymous with the artist as a brand which makes his artwork distinctive.
“In this era, branding plays such an important part in marketing and selling a product. The same goes for art. Everyone can paint but to be known as an artist takes time.
“If you have a huge capital, you can spend a lot of money making a name for yourself through branding, but for most artists, this is very difficult. I guess I was lucky that my passion for drawing elephants earned me the nickname of Yusof Gajah, and the name stuck.”
He believes his work conveys the message that sometimes you don’t have to look for complicated subjects to paint, as he is able to reinvent and showcase his favourite pachyderm in different styles of painting all the time.
His work is loved in Scandinavia, England, Japan, Indonesia and Germany and looks set to win over new fans worldwide.
At the recent Frankfurt International Book Fair this year, two of his latest books Elephabet and Mother & Child were a big hit with visitors there.
“I take the elephant as the main focus in my art and I can do anything with it. You just need a creative mind and skills,” said Yusof.
His fascination with elephants stems from the fact that these majestic creatures play a very important role in many societies and cultures around the world.
Apart from representing deities in some religions, they are used as a means of transportation and weaponry.
They are also easy creatures for people to recognise and relate to because only two species remain in the world — the African and Asian elephants. Yusof paints both in his work.
He recently launched both books together with his solo exhibition Yusof Gajah@Aliyaa.
The exhibition will be on until Nov 29 at the Aliyaa Island Restaurant and Bar in Lorong Dungun, Damansara Heights. Incidently aliyaa is Singhalese for elephant.
“It seemed like a fitting place to hold my exhibition considering it was in keeping with my elephant theme.”
“The books are the first two printed for adults and are a series of sketches and water colours which I did while travelling around the world. They are like a journal to me. I think it’s time artists in this country have more of their work printed in books,” he said.
Mother & Child is a selection from a series of water colours celebrating motherhood and the family.
Meanwhile, Elephabet is a book using elephant drawings to illustrate the 26 letters of the alphabet and is an ABC of inspirational messages on life as seen by Yusof. It has been received well both here and at the Frankfurt book fair.
Elephabet flash cards are also available for children and Yusof is also in the process of completing EleDoodles for them too.