Image: El Anatsui, AG + BA, 2014 (Detail)
October Gallery, London, is currently showing an exhibition of El Anatsui’s metal works and a selection of prints created in collaboration with Factum Arte, Madrid. El Anatsui was born in 1944 in Anyako, Ghana, a citizen of the Ewe Nation and son of a master weaver of Kente cloth. As a member of the faculty at University of Nigeria, Nsukka, El Anatsui began to incorporate Uli and Nsibidi of southeastern Nigeria into his work alongside his indigenous Adinkra symbols and other Ghanaian motifs and ideographic and logographic symbolism. Today, he is most famous for his large-scale sculptures from salvaged materials. In an interview with the gallery, El Anatsui said, “The amazing thing about working with these metallic ‘fabrics’ is that the poverty of the materials used in no way precludes the telling of rich and wonderful stories.”
Image: El Anatsui, Avocado Coconut Egg (ACE), 2016
El Anatsui has received widespread international acclaim for his sculptural experiments with media, form and tradition. Making use of tools as diverse as chainsaws, welding torches and power tools as well as developing a range of processes such as the intricate and meditative 'sewing' process of his later work, he has shaped found materials that range from cassava graters, railway sleepers, driftwood, iron nails and obituary printing plates, aluminium bottle-tops, etc. to create a wide variety of novel sculptural forms.
His use of these materials reflects his interest in reuse, transformation, and an intrinsic desire to connect to his continent while transcending the limitations of place. His work can interrogate the history of colonialism and draw connections between consumption, waste, and the environment, but at the core is his unique formal language that distinguishes his practice. Watch El Anatsui talk about his work in a short film from Art Basel.
His sculptures have been collected by major international museums, including the British Museum, London, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the de Young Museum, San Francisco, the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, the museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, and many other prestigious institutions besides.
Triumphant Scale, a major survey exhibition of the artist's work, curated by Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu, is currently being shown at Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland, until 1st November 2020.
Focus on El Anatsui, 15 July - 8 August 2020, octobergallery.co.uk