Fresh from Venice Biennale, the 2015 Gold Lion for Lifetime Achievement award winner, El Anatsui is bringing his first ever major exhibition in Australia to the Carriageworks thanks to the Schwartz Carriageworks project. El Anatsui: Five Decades exhibits over 30 pieces from the 1970s till now. As a recognised world leader in contemporary art, Ghanaian Anatsui examines the colonial and post-colonial histories of Africa against motifs of consumption-exchange-renewal with the infinite beauty located in the everyday.
Anatsui’s skill at reusing and re-creating various materials, from woods, aluminium printing plates, tin boxes and even liquor bottle tops is evident in the pieces of Five Decades. In one such instance with folds and copper wire he hand bound together Nigerian alcohol bottle tops from a fortuitous garbage bag discovery in 1998. They were the flattened labels from West African alcohol bottles with suggestive branding such as Dark Sailor, King Solomon, 007, Chairman and Makossa. Echoing colonialism, migration, cultural exchange and consumption narratives, the imagery added a new level of visual complexity to his work.
West Africa of the 1960s and 70s had a vibrant post-independent art movement from which Anatsui rose to international acclaim for his sculptural experiments with media, form and tradition. He ties the traditional stylings of Ghana (his place of birth) and Nigeria (where he lives and works) with his contemporary art pieces to current issues. West African adinkra symbols were integrated on the surfaces of many of his ceramics, prints and sculptures.
When visiting this exhibition seek out the key themes reflected in his works: an awareness of the fragility and transience of existence; a belief that damaged or discarded objects can be transformed into something new; a working method that incorporates multiple sources and parts to form a whole; and the importance of language as a metaphor to expand the interpretation of art.
Five Decades will include his ceramics, drawings, sculptures and woodcarvings, though often best known for his large-scale, elaborate and sprawling installations. Though large-scale, his installations are all hand crafted.
“El Anatsui is one of the world’s great artists and it is an honour to be presenting these remarkable works in Carriageworks’ unique spaces. We hope the audiences of Sydney and beyond relish this very special experience,” continues Beatrice Gralton, Visual Arts Curator, Carriageworks.
El Anatsui: Five Decades is A Schwartz Carriageworks project in association with Sydney Festival.
What: El Anatsui: Five Decades
From 7 January until 6 March 2016.
When: 10 am until 6 pm daily
Cost: The exhibition is free to the public
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