A million little pieces stitched together shapes a large moving tapestry. The waves of the installation, similar to chainmail, create a voluptuous presence. Artist El Anatsui is mesmerizing our senses and attracting our curiosity. He designs from simple materials complex compositions, using all sorts of tools to merge modest means into powerful and impressive pieces. In between sculpture (for the structure) and painting (for the way colors drop from different angles), the delicate and monumental pieces cannot be categorized.
El Anatsui’s work emphasizes the fact that art is a sixth sense, an add-on and a value that’s indescribable. From liquid bottle caps, iron nails, driftwood or cassava graters the artist creates morphing mosaics that are hung up the walls of monuments and museums in major cities. Seen from far away, the meticulously assembled little pieces become an accumulation of gems. Each installation is non fixed and can be moved from one place to another without ever having the same appearance. Just like fabric, the piece is creased, folded and adjusted to its in-situ set.
The artist’s impact on one hand is for the viewer to reflect on obvious key topics such as consumption, waste and environment. The bottle caps or the tin lids that he uses represent simultaneously garbage and manpower, thinking of that while he creates helps him give a spiritual dimension to his art.
On the other hand, the pieces help make a connection between America, Africa and Europe. The fact that the installations are hung questions the part of a wall as sequestration, protection or deprivation from freedom.
“Artists are not dictators”, El Anatsui claims loud and clear next to his pieces. He doesn’t want to impose an idea because everyone’s point of view is valid.
The artist was awarded in April 2015 at the Venice Biennale with a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. Watch the video below of one of the greatest artistic influencer amongst two generations of artists working in West Africa.
El Anatsui’s work is currently shown at Jack Shainman Gallery until September 2015.