Friday, August 6, 2010

Spear's-Anthony Haden-Guest Interviews Ghanaian Sculptor El Anatsui

photo of Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui:
(Story and Interview by Anthony Haden-Guest)

25 July 2010

THE WALL SCULPTURE by El Anatsui was an absolute stand-out at Art Dubai earlier this year, a shimmering, glimmering waterfall of pixellated metal that seemed at once substantial and immaterial. It was then, when you got closer, that there was a kind of a delayed-action frisson when you saw that the art material used to make this shower of pointilliste matter was just so many squinched and squooshed twist-off metal liquor caps, the kind of party or saloon detritus that normally finds a natural, unlovely quietus in a gutter, a plastic sack or a garbage pail.
I was introduced to El Anatsui by Elisabeth Lalouschek of London’s October Gallery, at whose stand the piece was hanging. A rangy figure, he came across at first as a reserved, professorial figure rather than after the London model of the artist-as-life-force, but then so he should. Ghana-born, he has been teaching at the University of Nigeria since 1974 and is now on the high plateau of academe.

El Anatsui’s initial material of choice when he began making his mature art had been tropical hardwoods, which he would work with a chainsaw. Indeed, it was a video of him doing just that, given to her by one of her artists, that first brought El Anatsui to Lalouschek’s attention. Finding him was no doddle. ‘This was before the internet,’ she says. ‘It was quite complex; all word of mouth.’ She finally tracked the artist down by way of a Nigerian architect who was based in London. ‘They were friends,’ she says. ‘He had a couple of pieces.’ El Anatsui joined the October Gallery in 1993.

(click here to read the full interview on the Spear's Magazine website)

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