Wednesday, July 8, 2015

El Anatsui – Experimental Artist, Sculptor, and a Golden Lifetime of Achievements

Recently renowned artist and lecturer, Professor El Anatsui, won the acclaimed Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale. Ghanaian born El Anatsui having worked and lived in Nigeria for the past 45 years has always been dynamic and outstanding in his innovative experimentations with especially unconventional materials such as found or discarded objects.

Professor El Anatsui

The erudite and restless artist during a lifetime of teaching in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, has obviously conquered many frontiers and broken aesthetic and creative bounds. Having worked extensively with wood, fabrics, ceramics, paint and all manner of found objects - all built into a unique oeuvre, this sculptor has accumulated a legacy that is legendary including a repertoire of shimmering sculptures and, or installations that have toured the globe in recent times.

Relief work by Anatsui

His latest experimentation which first stunned the art world was shown also in the 2007 edition of the biennale; it is a demonstration of the artist’s deep thinking stemming from his awareness and concern for the environment, the influence of his native Ghanaian fabric designs, waste to wealth creation, and issues in globalisation as he pieced together hundreds and perhaps thousands of found bottle crowns with copper wire. 

Work by Anatsui

Three weeks before the commencement of the just concluded 56th biennale exhibition in Venice, El Anatsui had been recommended by this year’s curator of the international art exhibition, Nigerian born Okwui Enwezor.  And of course the Anatsui was well deserving of the honour as the biennale board of directors also deemed him fit to be adjudged winner of this year’s ‘Golden Lion’ award having considered the great body of works coming out from the studios of this great artist. 

'In the world but don't know the world' by El anatsui

Considering his achievements and recognition, the board’s chairman, Paolo Baratta had described Anatsui as "perhaps the most significant living African artist working on the continent today." Baratta acknowledged that the artist had made immeasurable contributions not just on the fantastic works churned out by him, but also for his great and positive influence over the years on two generations of artists while teaching and practicing.

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