Ghana-born El Anatsui is an artist who employs simple materials to create complex and often large-scale installations. Anatsui uses a diverse range of mediums—including clay, wood and bottle caps—to portray a range of themes stemming from political, social, environmental and historical concerns. His works present a unique formal language informed by his interest in reuse, postcolonial discourse, consumption, waste and the environment.Read More
Emerging from post-independence art movements of West Africa in the 1960s and 1970s, Anatsui gained prominence in 2002 when he began using his distinct bottle cap weaving technique to create large-scale assemblages. These works consist of thousands of pieces of aluminium bottle caps and other materials sewn together with copper wire. This can be seen in the work Skylines? (2008), where the bottle caps are woven together to create folds that cascade across and down the gallery wall, creating the effect of a metallic cloth-like structure that shimmers in deceptive decadence. In Skylines? and other wall hanging works, Anatsui reuses metals from alcohol recycling stations. The use of alcohol bottle caps references the industry that Europeans brought to Africa, and the work thus explores postcolonial themes relating to exchange. The use of the recycled material also alludes to Anatsui’s interest in visualising waste and consumption, reflecting an environmentalist ethos.
In a report on the artist’s exhibition at Sydney’s Carriageworks (El Anatsui: Five Decades [7 January–6 March 2015]), Ocula contributor Rachel Fuller noted that of the utmost concern to Anatsui is that ‘a work must be fluid and free, it must embody the change inherent in everyday life. As Anatsui says, “The form is not a given, but it is a proposition”.’ The artist therefore creates variable forms that allow flexibility in order to be shaped and altered to appear differently in each installation. His works are inherently impermanent as they are taken down, folded then reassembled slightly differently at each exhibition. By making the works mutable, the artist breaks with the form of traditional sculpture. He also challenges convention by hanging his work on walls, from ceilings and laying them on the ground. An example is Gli (Wall) (2010), which hangs from the high ceiling of the gallery interior. The work appears thin and light due to its transparency, resembling a delicate metal curtain.
Nina Lala | Ocula | 2017
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When I saw El Anatsui's exhibition "Triumphant Scale" in Bern, Switzerland, on March 12, 2020, the World Health Organization had just declared covid-19 a pandemic. I'd been looking for a flight back to New York since three o'clock in the morning, after learning that the United States was closing its borders with Europe.
The artists are El Anatsui, Byung Hoon Choi, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Olafur Eliasson, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Cristina Iglesias and Ai Weiwei, and they were commissioned to create a mix of sculptures, light installations and suspended artworks for the 14-acre premises, known as the Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus.
There are hundreds of exhibitions in Venice during the Biennale. Alongside the main exhibition in the Giardini and Arsenale, there are 90 national presentations, many in nearby pavilions in the Giardini and in spaces around the Arsenale, but also dotted throughout Venice. Then there are the official collateral exhibitions in museums and galleries...
The Parisian art world will resound to a decidedly African beat when Bernard Arnault's Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, hosts a three-part exhibition devoted to African art: Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier (26 April-28 August), It will include a show of contemporary South African art from the foundation's collection and a selection of works from the...
El Anatsui has carved a name for himself with his monumental hanging sculptures made with recycled metal scraps. As imposing and spectacular as they are fragile and portable, these works have been exhibited in some of the world's most prestigious institutions, most recently at Munich's Haus der Kunst and in the Venice Biennale's first Ghana...
In this video, Ghana's best-known contemporary artist, El Anatsui, speaks about the role that language and symbols play in his work. He describes how the abstract nature of West African "adinkra" symbols and the flexibility of meaning in the words of his native language of Ewe resonate with the concept of non-fixity and indeterminateness...