Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Animal artists given own exhibition

A painting by Sumatran orang-utan Baka is part of an exhibition taking place at University College London's Grant Museum of Zoology

Orang-utans, gorillas, chimpanzees and an elephant are among animal artists being given their own exhibition of paintings.

The event, opening next week at University College London's Grant Museum of Zoology, will feature works from zoos in the US and Thailand.

One of the highlights is a painting of a flowerpot by Boon Me, a former Thai logging elephant. Another is a finger painting entitled Digit Master by a chimp called Bakhari.

Museum co-curator and animal art critic Mike Tuck said: "It was a painting using his fingers and the marks are quite clear. To me it seems to be a very joyful work which suggests that the sensation of moving the paint was a pleasurable one. It is so close to the painting of a child."

The exhibition aims to encourage visitors to ask the philosophical question: "Is animal art, art?" In other words, can animals be creative?"

Jack Ashby, manager of the museum, said: "Whether this is actually art is the big question. While individual elephants are trained to always paint the same thing, art produced by apes is a lot more creative and is almost indistinguishable from abstract art by humans that use similar techniques.

"Ape art is often compared to that of two or three-year-old children in the 'scribble stage'."

Mr Tuck, a graduate of the UCL Slade School of Fine Art, added: "Although it is fairly clear that any notion of art by animals is essentially anthropomorphic, it starts to raise very interesting questions about the nature of human art."

Images of monkeys painting date back at least to the 17th century in Europe. However, it was not until the 1950s that animal paintings began to be taken seriously.

The Art by Animals exhibition runs until March 9 and admission is free.

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