Born in Lagos in Lagos, Nigeria, Abiodun Olaku has his roots in Abeokuta, Ogun state. In his third decade of avid, dedicated and progressive art practice since graduating from the prestigious Yaba College of Technology, Lagos as a painter in 1981, under the supervision and guidance of Prof. Yusuf Grillo, Kolade Oshinowo and late Dr. Isiaka Osunde. Abiodun Olaku has crystallized into one of the ‘exclusive’ masters of his generation.
The entrenched uniqueness of his style and the pleasantly haunting effect it has on the viewer explains the rather frenzied pursuit of his paintings. The fragrance of honesty that oozes from his works is both compelling and stimulating at the same time, thereby unlocking the desire for a faithful relationship with them.
Apart from being a cultural officer in the civil service, (National Gallery of Modern Art), (1982-89), a guest-lecturer between 1994-1996 in his alma-mater, Olaku’s vast professional experience includes administrative, mentoring, curatorial, entrepreneurial and consulting activities.His influence within the visual art industry and community in Nigeria is quite potent and commendable having trained, mentored and inspired a significant mass of the emerging generations of artists; as well as passionately and radically pursing the promotion, social elevation and the overall cause of professional artists in the Nigerian society, leading to a couple of awards in recognition of this.
The Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria (GFA), is one living proof of that passion. Olaku is a founding member, trustee and 1st Vice President of the GFA; a member of the Society of Nigerian Artists (S.N.A), since 1983 (where he has also served severally in ad-hoc capacity, including curating some exhibitions).He is a founding member, trustee as well as the special duties officer of Universal Studios of Art, National Theatre, Lagos. In acknowledgement of his consistency and sterling artistic performance, his Alma mater, Yaba College of Technology proudly honoured him with ‘The Master of Spatial Realism’ Award in 2011.Olaku, who has had 3 solo shows and over 120 joint and group exhibitions to his name, is widely exhibited, collected and commissioned, in significant places like the U.S.A., U.K., France, Holland, South Africa, apart from some of the African and Asian countries.
AWARDS/HONOURS• Society of Nigerian Artists - Letter of Commendation as Jan. 3rd 1990. Chairman, Exhibition Sub-Committee, SNA 25TH Anniversary Task Force;• Defactori Art Pillar Award (Contribution towards Development of Young Artists) 2004 at the French Cultural Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos;• APKO Logo Project Competition, organized by Total Upstream Nigeria Limited 2004, (Winning Entry).
Olaku is about the most accomplished master of the illuminated landscape in Nigerian art. Two years before the country gained her independence from colonial rule in 1960, Olaku was born in Lagos during the festive season between Yuletide and New Year celebrations, hence the name Abiodun-a child born during festivals. Lagos offered Olaku better opportunities, especially in terms of his preparation as an artist. In 1970, he was admitted to the Baptist Academy, a college equipped with facilities for art studies in a country when, at that time, most schools were characterized by the avoidance of that subject.
Olaku paid attention to art education, and his passion was for painting. Art pupils in Baptists Academy practised still-life studies, imaginative compositions, and landscape painting, Olaku’s favorite genre. Nobody was totally surprised Olaku decided to study art at the prestigious Yaba College of Technology, where he honed his talent into an instrument of keen observation and vivid expression. But the question that has always faced him is a timeless puzzle for many landscape artists trapped in a schizophrenic topography. On the one hand is the Nigeria of the Victoria Island and Lekki Township, where the standard of living, the architecture, and display of affluence matches the best experiences from the richest parts of the world. On the other hand is the terrain of Maroko, Ajegunle, and Oworonsoki, crippled by poverty, chaos, and debris piled around slum dwellings. Complicating matters is his vivid and photographic recollection of his childhood in the filthy metropolis of Ibadan.
Olaku accepts both parts of Nigeria, but not with the hopeless submission of the camera. His work is idealistic rather than merely realistic. He tames the use of light as his allegorical accomplice for musical and poetic compositions that balance natural lights and artificial illuminations. His spotlights, often reflected on murky water surfaces, speak of hope even in forlorn circumstances. The result is a rhythmic choreography of orchestrated luminosity that offers values of light to a sightless and stumbling Nigeria, a sovereign groping for vanishing values.