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As a man is, so he sees. As the eye is formed, such are its powers. William Blake

Augustin Kolawole Olayinka: The Transfiguration

ArtWay Visual Meditation 2 August 2020

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Augustin Kolawole Olayinka: The Transfiguration 

Jesus Leads us to the End of History

by Christian Weber

The perspective of this image is striking in comparison to most of the representations of the Transfiguration of Jesus: the foreground does not show the disciples kneeling or lying but Jesus coming towards the viewer, followed by Moses and Elijah. Three disciples stand in the background further down on the mountain. They see the apparition only from behind, looking at the back of the divine reality (cf. Ex 33:23). Two of them hold one of their hands in front of their eyes to protect themselves from the blinding light.

Moses and Elijah do not stand next to Jesus, they are not in conversation with him, but walk behind him as his followers. Moses carries the stick he performed miracles with (Ex 4:2) and the belt of the Passover (Ex 12:11). Elijah carries a simple prophet's robe of camel hair (2 Kings 1:8), while the flames at the bottom of his robe may refer to God's miraculous fire on Mount Carmel.

The colour scheme is striking: warm earth colours of brown and ochre predominate. The green and red of the sky are reflected in the garment of Jesus. His halo and the upper part of his robe are pink. And does the green patch at the bottom of his robe perhaps refer to the devil, who Christ will be facing soon in the evil of the cross?

In the artist's perspective the story of the Transfiguration not only tells about Jesus showing himself to the disciples. Jesus comes towards us, he invites us to follow him and join his followers of different ages – until the end of history.

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1. Augustin Kolawole Olayinka: The Transfiguration of Jesus (1997). From: missio-Kunstkalender 2002 no. 5 © missio Aachen.

2. Olayinka uses a selfmade stencil to put paste on the cloth. His second son is watching him.

Photo: Shirabe Ogata (2010). From: Ogata (2016) 586, fig. 25.

3. Olayinka working on clay statues. Photo: Shirabe Ogata (2008). From: Ogata (2016) 607, fig. 36.

Augustin Kolawole Olayinka was born in Ibadan/Nigeria in 1964 and discovered his artistic abilities as a child. Through the mediation of an uncle he was able to take an apprenticeship with the artist Bayo Ogundele in Ile-Ife. Like his famous brother Rufus Ogundele, Bayo belonged to the Oshogbo School, which was founded in the mid-1960s by Georgina and Ulli Beier (she was a painter from England and he a linguist from Germany). Typical for the Oshogbo style are flat compositions, use of primary colours, representation of faces like African masks and themes from Yoruba culture (like mythology, dance and agriculture). In 1986 Olayinka passed the entrance examination of the university in Ile-Ife and was able to study art for four years. When he won the missio Art Prize in 1993, he was invited to Aachen, Germany for three months and gained international recognition. But it remained difficult to make a living from art. At times he earned money as a motorcycle taxi driver. Between 2008 and 2012 he received several commissions to decorate Catholic churches in Nigeria. Even though his wife Funke has a small tailor shop and trades in food, the money was not enough to finance a higher education of their two sons and three daughters. At times the family could only afford one meal a day. Together with his family, Olayinka belongs to a Pentecostal church founded in 2006, where he is also active as a choir conductor and Sunday school teacher. He continues to make a living from artistic commissions, which include an enormous range of styles and techniques (painting, fabric printing, clay reliefs, cement statues).

Literature:

  • missio-Kunstkalender (1995) no. 9, (2002) and (2007) no. 2
  • Gregor von Fürstenberg and Vellguth, Klaus (Ed.) (2006): Mein Bild von Weihnachten. Was Prominente glauben, Kevelaer, 13.
  • Gregor von Fürstenberg and Vellguth, Klaus (Ed.) (2007): Mein Bild von Ostern. Was Prominente glauben, Kevelaer, 11.
  • Shirabe Ogata (2016):「アーティスト」として生きていく= To Live as an Artist. The Way the Arts are Practiced in the City of Ile-Ife, Nigeria, in: Bulletin of the National Museum of Ethnology Osaka/Japan 40 (2016, vol. 4) 547-618. [doi.org/10.15021/00006074]

This essay is an extended excerpt from: Weber, Christian (2020): Wie andere Kulturen die Bibel sehen. Ein Praxisbuch mit 70 Kunstwerken aus 33 Ländern, Zürich [How Other Cultures See the Bible. A Handbook with 70 Artworks from 33 Countries], www.tvz-verlag.ch/buch/wie-andere-kulturen-die-bibel-sehen-9783290182748/?page_id=1

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ON THE WEBSITE   NEW ON THE WEBSITE   NEWS

1. MASTER ARNT REDISCOVERED – 25 June – 20 September, Museum Schnütgen, Leonhard-Tietz-Strasse 10. Cologne: Arnt the sculptor of images – Master of animated sculptures. Who was Master Arnt of Kalkar and Zwolle? The first exhibition dedicated to the founder of a rich school of sculpture on the Lower Rhine takes visitors into the era of the late Middle Ages. Some 60 works by the artist, who worked between about 1460 and 1491, are on display. The late Gothic œuvre of Master Arnt captivates with extraordinary liveliness, a wide range of subjects and narrative detail. Master Arnt stands for the interconnection of artistic impulses from the Lower Rhine with those of the adjoining Netherlands: From about 1460–1484 he worked along the Lower Rhine in Kalkar, and from about 1484–1491 in Zwolle, the present capital of the Dutch province of Overijssel. His workshop provided sculptures for numerous places around the IJsselmeer and the region around Cleves. In addition to altarpieces with figural narrative reliefs and statues of saints, striking individual figures of Christ, angels, and the Virgin and Child are part of Master Arnt‘s surviving work. Despite the productivity of his workshop, Master Arnt still remains largely unknown to a broader public – the Museum Schnütgen assembles a considerable part of his œuvre especially for this exhibition and offers the opportunity to (re-)discover the sculptor. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue in German published by Hirmer Verlag. The extensive and opulent monograph with 200 illustrations in colour contains not only essays and a catalogue of the exhibited works, but also an up-to-date complete index of the preserved works of Meister Arnt. In addition, the museum's publishing house has an English language accompanying publication. Tu – Su, 10 – 18 h (Th until 20 h). https://museum-schnuetgen.de/Arnt-the-sculptor-of-images 

2. ARCHITECTURE FOUNDATION ON ZOOM – Listen… and debate! Monday 3 August, 5.30-6.30pm on Zoom. Head over to the Architecture Foundation's 100 Day Studio for a talk and discussion on church architecture and lessons from lockdown. Revd Dr Ayla Lepine, a trustee of A+C, is joined by Prof. Victoria Young of St Thomas's University, Minnesota. Visit www.architecturefoundation.org.uk for a Zoom link to join the event.

3. CONVERSATION ON RELIGION IN MUSEUMS – The Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries are hosting conversations on religion and spirituality in museums. The first is comprised of three panels of scholars, faith leaders, and public figures exploring key issues related to spirituality and Asian religions. 

4. LIVESTREAM ABOUT STAINED GLASS IN ENGLAND – 6 August and 13 August at 1pm: Stained Glass in the English Parish Church through the ages by Dr Jasmine Allen, Curator, The Stained Glass Museum. Watch via the Livestream on the Facebook page of the Churches Conservation Trust.

This talk, in two parts, will draw attention to the enormously diverse collection of stained glass windows to be found in the English parish church, from the medieval to modern era. By looking at a number of windows both in situ and ex situ we will explore the history, stylistic and technical development of this art form in the context of the parish church, uncovering a rich artistic and social heritage. 

Part 1 explores the earliest stained glass to be found in England up to the Reformation era, revealing the evolving use of stained glass in gothic architecture and its role within the medieval church and society. 

Part 2 looks at the Post-Reformation to the contemporary period, exploring the changes brought about during the Civil Wars and the subsequent restoration and revival of the 18th and 19th centuries, and modern renewal and approaches during the 20th and 21st centuries.

Jasmine Allen is Director of The Stained Glass Museum in Ely Cathedral. She studied at the University of York and has published on the exhibition of stained glass in the nineteenth century. She is also a committee member of the Glaziers’ Trust, Stained Glass Repository, and British Corpus Vitrearum.

These lectures are recorded and will be available to watch afterward. You can also find a list of previous lectures on https://www.visitchurches.org.uk/what-we-do/things-to-do-at-home/online-talks-and-lectures.html

For more exhibitions, lectures, conferences etc. inside and outside your country, click here

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