I will be blogging periodically about artists whose work influences mine and why. I’m starting with the Ghanian artist El Anatsui who works in Nsukka, Nigeria. Now internationally reknown, he creates massive wall hung pieces and installations from thousands of bits of recycled metal tied together with copper wire.
His work defies categorization and lives somewhere between painting, sculpture and fiber. Like many artists working on a large scale, he employs dozens of studio helpers to fabricate the work. While there are some who question artists who use the labor of others in the construction of their work, this is now a common studio practice, especially for artists working on a massive scale. Here in Mexico, I employ six local Mexican women in the fabrication of my feathers and in the silk-screening process.
I am very intrigued with the concept of making something from nothing and in this way, I see a relationship between his work and mine. We both share a passion for patterning and also elevating recycled materials (metal bottle caps for him; plastic bags for me), by forging them into work that is both visually complex and brimming with meaning and cultural references.
I am deeply inspired by the scale, beauty, inventiveness, construction and originality of El Anatsui.
Additional resources about El Anatsui: