A tent made out of elephant skin as a large scale art installation. This does sounds like a shocking and provocative piece. Douglas White rips off our hearts and makes us angry before we even realize that he brilliantly fooled us. We are actually looking at an interpretation of what he encountered himself: an elephant’s deflated skin, draped and folded next to its bones like a collapsed tent. “Here was a body become landscape, a body both present and absent in which the distinction between the inner and outer had evaporated in the heat and decay. It was a body you could walk through…” said the artist. “Of all those objects that I ever encountered, this is the one I wanted most to possess…” Douglas White creates shapes, in between figuration and abstraction. Through his sculptures he is looking to get us sensitive on current problems like the environment, mass consumption and industrial products waste.
Ten years after his trip to East Africa and after numerous attempts in his London studio, the artist discovered a new way to work with clay. He conceived a thick and cracked texture close to a pachyderm’s skin. From there he developed a work of art around wood and clay. The result is bluffing: over 2500 lbs of wet clay suspended by a strange system of ropes, pulleys and wooden poles. By collecting thrown away or lost objects, Douglas White prefers to work with used materials to create spectacular and strange sculptures. Carbonized tires, containers, decomposed trees on a metal structure; through his art, Douglas White gives a second life to these abandoned materials.
If we makes analogies and dig into our primal instinct we can clearly see the reference to the structure of a circus big top. And if we dive even more deeper we can allow ourselves to link the song from Disney’s Dumbo soundtrack, “Song of the Roustabouts” to the name of the piece and we would be right to do so.