I'm quite excited about the El Anatsui retrospective that's on here in Toronto at the ROM right now--Anatsui's sculptures, which bind together often-discarded materials like bottlecaps and milk-can lids, are stunning. So I was excited to get the chance to chat with the Nigerian-based artist when he was in town for his exhibition preview last week. Our condensed exchange, out in today's Post, focuses on the way that Anatsui tends to include others or reference others in his practice--so much so that he talks about his students' works in his lectures and says he would like to collaborate with non-art professionals in future. To me this also reflects his material practice of bringing overlooked items together. Here's an excerpt from our Q&A:
Q Last year when you gave a public lecture in Toronto, you started by showing some artworks created by your students. No other artist of your stature does this. Why did you?
A Because I've spent most of my career teaching and, at times, students' work is very strong -- strong inspiration to me. They come up with solutions that you have not thought about. It's not that they inspire me to work exactly like them, but they inspire me to search deeper.
Q That "searching deeper" also relates to something you said last year -- that you still don't feel you've reached the level of your own art heroes, that you still feel a need to get better. So here we are at your 40-year retrospective. Do you still feel the need to improve?
A I still feel the same thing. The nature of the profession is that you never get satisfied with what you have done. There are always new things beckoning at you -- vaguely, from a distance.
Q What's beckoning to you right now?
A I said "vaguely." Ha! If you can name what is beckoning, then it doesn't become interesting.
He was a fun person to speak with. The show, organized by the Museum for African Art in New York, will open there next year and then go on a US tour. You can read more of the Q&A here.
(Image of El Anatsui's 2007 Venice Biennale installation from Newsgrist/Robert Goldwater Library)
Friday, October 8, 2010
Posted by Leah Sandals at 9:38 AM