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The central rotund shape in this painting derives from a photograph of a Sudanese corn-bin, which Ernst has transformed into a sinister mechanical monster. Ernst often re-used found images, and either added or removed elements in order to create new realities, all the more disturbing for being drawn from the known world. The work’s title comes from a childish German rhyme that begins: ‘The elephant from Celebes has sticky, yellow bottom grease’. The painting’s inexplicable combinations, such as the headless female figure and the elephant-like creature, suggest images from a dream and the Freudian technique of free association.

October 2016