Just last year, Ghanaian artist El Anatsui was awarded one of the world’s greatest art accolades – the Gold Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale. The prize honoured not only Anatsui’s growing international success, but also his lasting artistic influence across two generations of artists working in West Africa. The first major survey of Anatsui’s work ever shown in Australia has arrived at Carriageworks. Presented as part of the Sydney Festival and the venue’s five-year project partnership with Anna Schwartz Gallery, Five Decades includes more than 30 works from the 1970s to the present.
“Humanity is in a constant state of change,” says Anatsui. “I want my artworks to replicate that experience.” The artist is a master of repurposed materials – particularly bottle caps. Following a chance discovery of a bag full of Nigerian liquor lids in 1998, Anatsui has developed about 15 different techniques to shape and craft cascading tapestries and ornate sculptures out of thousands of abandoned caps.
Draped from the ceiling, or strewn gently across Carriageworks’ polished-concrete floor, Anatsui’s bottle-cap works appear topographic – large-scale land maps forged from gleaming West African whiskey, wine, rum, gin, vodka and schnapps labels. The exhibition also features a selection of Aantsui’s ceramics, drawings, sculptures and woodcarvings.
El Anatsui: Five Decades is showing at Carriageworks until March 6, 2016.