El Anatsui

and the telling of rich and wonderful stories.

The monumental works of senior Ghanaian-born, Nigerian-based artist El Anatsui transcend material and form.

By Peter Hill APR 2015

The term ‘alchemical’ is all too easy to use in art writing, given that all great art is transformative – technically, emotionally, conceptually. Granted, it is a weird thing that we do. Painters crush precious metals and minerals, dug from the arid zones of the world, add a few beetle wings and binders, and transform them into sublime objects of beauty or terror. Here, an Anselm Kiefer painterly memorial to the Holocaust. There, a Monet waterlily pond, or a Marlene Dumas portrait from the abject side of town.

Most painters today – with some glorious exceptions, such as the young Melbourne painter of suburbia Grant Hill – no longer grind their own paint, but wander unthinkingly into the artist supply store and stock up on the already-tubed variety of paint from Liquitex or Winsor & Newton.

The Ghanaian-born, Nigerian-based artist El Anatsui is a thinking artist. He not only invents his own eco-friendly techniques from first principles, but shepherds them through to expanded fields of vision that would make Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles appear postage stamp-sized by comparison.

So what exactly does he do? When I first heard that he made artworks from discarded aluminium bottle-tops, mostly from liquor bottles, I groaned inwardly and prejudged the work as another example of unconvincing neo-craftism, strong on the feel-good factor. The mistake was all mine. I may be late in coming to his work, but I am not alone in thinking that these monumental works are singularly important to the visual culture of the 21st century. According to ... Subscribe to read this article in full

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