Live art in Clough celebrates elephants

Photo by Taylor Gray/Student Publications

On Thursday, Jan. 16, artist Abhishek Singh drew the attention of students passing through the Clough atrium. Starting at around 11 a.m., Singh stood in front of three large canvases. With his humble brush and black paint, he began to construct a family of elephants on the left bottommost corner of the first canvas. Singh then invited students to engage with him and his art, encouraging them to ask questions and take a closer look.  

Singh, who has been an artist all his life, spoke of his inspiration stemming from the various stories art could tell.

 “I was always enchanted by the stories so the stories kind of became the fuel for me to keep doing the art,” he explained. 

The narrative behind art can often be overlooked by the chaos and pace of life, and as students it can be especially difficult to pause to pay attention to that narrative. In light of that, Singh hoped to share the celebration of story and art through the elephant and symbol of Ganesh, an elephant-headed god of obstacles and difficulties. 

“I feel that these stories were created so you can find this bond with nature.You can understand its different phenomenons. You can understand how the systems there work through these personifications of the stories.” 

As the elephants began to multiply across the canvases, Singh explained the significant symbolism of these noble creatures. 

“An elephant can hear a raindrop drumming inside a cloud miles away; they have this beautiful hearing,” Singh explained. 

“We’re celebrating the elephant — we’re celebrating their lives.” 

Singh celebrated with the support of the many students who watched and engaged with his work.  Second-year BCHM Sommer Vanden Huevel shared his thoughts on this unique experience. 

“The artist’s talent was incredible, watching him draw so delicately yet confidently. The drawings were fantastic — like remembering a dream,” Huevel said. 

Third-year CHBE Josh Thrift also weighed in on his interaction: “This is a lot more interactive. You can actually speak with the artist and learn his motivations … here you can see all his different artwork and get to know the artist as well as his art,” said Thrift.

Singh explained the ability of each observer to give as well as to take from the whole experience, as the constant flow of students, faculty and visitors surrounding the spectacle created an energy that seemed to make its way into the art itself.

“When you bring it out for me, the most important intent is to create a shared experience where everyone is sharing in the story.” 

Thrift likewise reflected on the power of art, especially ones that allow for personal perceptions to influence the work.  

“It’s really drawing a lot more attention to itself,” said Thrift. “Rather than just placing something on a wall for people to casually observe, it feels like there’s a real focus here on the artwork.” 

Melanie Moenning, a third-year ISyE, also shared her thoughts on the experience. 

“I felt a lot of peace getting to watch someone paint … It brought whimsy and spirituality to my day.” 

As the day progressed, the painting became more elaborate and more intricate, reminding viewers to look for stories and to connect with nature and one another.