T1-MMT-P5-s2 Research – El Anatsui

Yesterday I visited El Anatsui: Five decades at the Carriageworks.

There are a few previous mentions of his work in this blog: 27-Aug-2012 seen at the 18th Biennale Sydney: all our relations and discussed in the context of “Textile Art” research; 27-Mar-2015 as an example of surface distortion in research for assignment 1 of this course; and 29-Aug-2015 when I used the quote “He feels it is important to work with a newly discovered medium until you really understand it and can “get something intrinsic out of it” in support of my decision to narrow and deepen my exploration of molding materials in assignment 3. In that final post I also referenced a post by fellow student Nina, on ninaoconnor.wordpress.com which gives an excellent overview and related links about El Anatsui’s work.

This post is going to focus purely on what attracted my attention as related to my current project, An exploration of materials and space, also known as a collection of vessels.

El Anatsui

El Anatsui

El Anatsui Imbroglio

El Anatsui Imbroglio

At one end of a large space there were a series of objects. They were made at different times – 1979, 1987, 1995. They used a variety of materials – most manganese, but also oyili-oji wood and black afara wood. The spaced arrangement, the height, made it easy to walk around, to peer into the works. It also tended to homogenize them, to isolate them.

This would not be an effective method to display a collection as an interacting group of objects nor to explore space.

El Anatsui Waste paper bags

El Anatsui Waste paper bags

Waste paper bags is clearly a single work consisting of multiple elements. I find this presentation of the work particularly evocative. Anatsui’s work frequently references waste and recycling. Here it is presented in a building which was in a sense waste, when no longer required for building and maintaining railway carriages, and which now has been “recycled” into a contemporary multi-arts centre. The original fabric of the building is largely intact, with new structures inserted within. The mix of old and new materials of the gallery provides a very appropriate backdrop to Anatsui’s work. The high roof and skylights also allows shafts of light to enter and illuminate the works to very good effect.

My own vessels are new constructs of new materials. However the potential of different surrounds and natural light, at least as a supplement, is relevant to my thinking.

Viewers are able to move around the works, to peer into them in a very direct way. So far I have been considering my samples as complete at their existing size. Could they be scaled up so that people could walk amongst them? I can’t see that, at least not directly. I have been working with the properties of the materials, and the textures and forms created would not become larger simply by using more of the same materials. They could be made somewhat larger, but not human sized without a translation to other materials.

El Anatsui  Drainpipe (detail)

El Anatsui
Drainpipe (detail)

El Anatsui  Drainpipe

El Anatsui
Drainpipe

Finally another reminder of the impact of the surface on which the work is shown. An internet search easily finds photographs of it exhibited on marble, on polished work, on blemish-free polished concrete. It’s a little different every time. That’s certainly something I want to experiment with over the next few weeks.

T1-MMT-P5-s2 Research – El Anatsui
Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
Part 5: A final piece
Stage 2: Research
El Anatsui

2 Responses to “T1-MMT-P5-s2 Research – El Anatsui”


  1. 1 Inger Inanna Weidema February 27, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    oh, how lucky you were to experience this! I am a huge fan of El Anatsui but have never seen his thing live. Thanks for sharing.

  2. 2 fibresofbeing February 27, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    Hi Inger
    I’ve only shown a small part of the exhibition. Some magnificent, huge pieces. Also very interesting to see the development of his work over the years.


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