A Section from my Book: Evolution Through Art

Art — Integrator of the Human Mind

Copyright  © 2021 by Michael Newberry


There are thousands of contemporary living figurative/representational artists doing amazing work that is subtle, universal, and unique. I have picked six artists for this chapter who are contributing innovative aspects of knowledge, perception and psychology to art. Their inroads are adding insights into our human experience and spirit—nudging us in positive directions and tapping our need to keep evolving.

Abiodun Olaku, Elemental Notes, 2012, oil on canvas, 36x48 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Figure 52 Abiodun Olaku, Elemental Notes, 2012, oil on canvas, 36×48 inches. Courtesy of the artist.


Irrespective of time and space, I operate with a strong reliance on the principles, theories, formulae, and spirit that have guaranteed the enduring strength and essence of true, evocative art.

Abiodun Olaku

Transcending Reality

Some artists transcend the mundane and elevate what they do to the universality of light. Vermeer and Rembrandt are two, and Nigerian artist Abiodun Olaku is another. Born in 1958, two years before Nigerian independence, Olaku has gone on to guide us on a journey through a benevolent universe of light.

Abiodun Olaku studied art at the Baptist Academy, 1970-1975, then at Yaba College of Technology, 1976-1981, both in Lagos, Nigeria. He studied with world-renowned Nigerian artists, figurative modernist Yusuf Grillo, sculptor Isiaka Osunde, and painter Kolade Oshinowo. Between them, they excelled in composition, abstracting forms, and thematic works that “tell stories.” To those skills he learned from his mentors, Olaku added a ruthless exactitude of perspective and a surgically wrought refined sense of light. Ironically the result becomes a vision of the warmth, empathy and kindness of the human experience.

In Elemental Notes we have a wet twilight urban scene with flickering lights. A divided road with beautifully proportioned sidewalks gently sweeps through the town taking up almost half the canvas. The scene is filled with people walking in pairs or as individuals, some with umbrellas, and some standing by a street vendor’s brazier. Presumably many of them are discussing events or personal stories. Some cars are pulled to the side to pick up or drop off passengers. Throughout the painting are the lights of street lamps, windows, cars, vendors, store signs, and even the taillight of moped—along with countless reflections that create a shimmering and glowing atmosphere. The lights and the clean style give a feeling of technological optimism and hope of a rewarding evening ahead of them.

Olaku does something very special with this painting. He creates not only superb perspectives of the diminishing sizes of people and things, he calibrates the intensity of the lights through space. Pick any three lights and you can sense a triangulated spatial relationship between them. When we realize this goes for all the lights and their reflections, it is a stunning result of Olaku’s optical sensitivity and knowledge—an innate, mental and spiritual talent of a genius.

The expansive openness of this painting, like an embrace, the points of light, and even if there are only suggestions of nature, the whole scene gives a feeling of a benevolent universe. A place in which community, sharing, reflection, progress, civility, and human light come together and give a feeling of hope for humanity.

Newberry, Evolution Through Art

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