I recently watched a documentary on El Anatsui. He’s an interesting character. Very much present but quite aloof, in his own space – he lives alone and likes it that way. I know a few people like that in the art world, and it’s a life style that fits well with the modern religion of work, but Anatsui does not appear to be so much possessed by his work that he has no room left for anything else, rather that he is extraordinarily reflective and very sensitive. Apparently his father had five or six wives (Anatsui was not sure) and thirty two children. The artist did not know who his mother actually was until late in life, and this rather strange displacement seems to have affected him deeply. The name El is an invented one, recalling Sun Ra. For me his best works are his early ceramics.
I’m not one for biography, but sometimes it’s worth it to remember that in art it’s a question of how you live your life as much as how you make your work. Was talking with David Jensenius about Anthony Braxton, and admiring his productivity, which amounts to thousands of manuscript pages of music. David was Braxton’s student. Apparently he would go to bed very early, get up at three or four, write until he had to start work, teach all day then go home and repeat. Such dedication is a choice, and art is made of choices. Braxton is another one who keeps his own council, has his own angle to the world.