Abiodun Olaku is probably Nigeria’s most poignant visual storyteller. His canvases evoke the charm, splendour and resilience of human existence. A night scene might on the one hand explore the beauty and mystery of night time, and on the other hand, the dashes of light on the dark canvas might tell a story about the people in the houses – their dreams, worries and aspirations.
His artworks do not shock. They are not meant to. They seduce. They introduce the viewer to a world of possibilities painstakingly created – even the dust as the horse riders charge at a distant target is a sort of visual poetry.
His themes vary. Sometimes they are cultural – Durbars, Argungu festivals, Eyo festivals. Sometimes they are everyday scenes – streets at night, riversides. We learn one important lesson with Olaku’s art – everything is beautiful. The houses on stilts, the shanties, the desolate streets. Everything looked at with the right eyes has its charm. He finds the charm, and he brings us in on it.
Olaku studied under Yusuf Grillo, Kolade Oshinowo and the late Dr. Isiaka Osunde. He has taken the baton of being the leading light of the Yaba school.
He graduated from Yaba College of Technology, Lagos in 1981. He worked in the civil service between 1982 and 1989 while honing his craft as an artist. He eventually decided to focus solely on art, and in 1989 set up his studio at Universal Studios at the National Theatre where he still works.
He is a founding member of the Guild of Fine Artists, Nigeria.