Yussef Agbo-Ola is undoubtedly, an artist touched by grace. A cosmic apostle cast upon the earth to bring us a glimpse of the divine, via the medium of his bewildering visual art.
Growing up in Suffolk, a small city in the southern state of Virginia (US) known for its open fields and Indian taxon, Yussef Agbo-Ola lionizes origins that are well rooted in the African diaspora, with a Nigerian father and family ancestors directly linked to the Yoruba tribe.
As a child he often found himself entirely isolated from people. Spending his days in the middle of the vast land and having to rely mainly on his imagination to materialize his own sense of reality. Dreaming became the way not only to relate to his inner soul but to connect with the spiritual force of which he felt the strong presence in the trees, the flowers, the rivers, the valleys and the powerful wind that swept across the whole land.
He gradually formed a deep connection with Earth and its supernatural essence; canvasing it as the most beautiful creation ever to be conceived and acknowledging the fact that all living entities are tied and interconnected under it! This later became the foundation of his belief both as a young man and as an artist.
If it is said that answers come in dreams, Agbo-Ola is as clear an evidence as one can get.
At a mere 22 years old, the fast emerging artist has managed to articulate a visual trans-linguistic dialog which comprises an alchemy of various components such as esoterica, surrealism or even psycho-shamanism. He upholds a creative predominance and visual aesthetic that many older and more ‘experienced’ artists would be eager to possess. The imagery he creates often echoes the work of spiritual pioneers the likes of Augustin Lesage and Alejandro Jodorowski.
Agbo-Ola creates art from dreams by materializing his perception of the divine into intricate visual narratives. Far from the realm of simple photographic imagery, these digital paintings are the genuine expression of a soul which is not limited by any type of genre classification; if only by the divine characteristics which allow this artist the ability to express a true measure of his freedom.
There is a core environmental or even an Earth loving ideology pervading through the art of Agbo-Ola, giving him the power to transfigure the very psyche of African mythology and carry it forward straight into the 21st century. The visual art he creates is not just breathtakingly stunning; it carries a cosmical message which is rarely seen in the work of other artists of the diaspora.
Despite his extremely young age, his photography, fashion line and film directing projects have already landed him widespread support from the Richmond arts community, grabbing the top spot at the international fashion competition put on by Garmz and most recently a first exhibition show at the GhostPrint Gallery.
Another Africa recently touched base with the artist.
Joyce Bidouzo-Coudray | What is your predominant source of inspiration?
Yussef Agbo-Ola | My work comes from a place in my mind I call ‘home’ where a union of images and ideas are first revealed to me as the true genesis of my art. My mind starts racing with a sheer passion in order to translate these images and ideas into a formal artistic expression. Everything moving around me transforms into a mixture of light. And the light inspires me to explore, discover and create.
“I create my own interpretations of history and dreams through digital imagery that focuses on building artistic tunnels toward a divine realm.”
As creation inspires my spirit and evolution engulfs what lies within me. I dream. The energy that dwells within my imagination never lies to me; it is a fundamental part of my creative process. My perception doesn’t reap any ownership of fleshy mortality, therefore its interpretation doesn’t consist of anyone’s reality. Reality is what I lack in total, having faith that my inner self will take me where I am destined to be.
How can you describe your work?
My work can best be described as a correlating relationship between images and ideas manifested in the mind, which is Imagination. Any idea or image that is desired by a client can be creatively designed as a visual display that the world can embrace. My inspiration is a mixture of every natural element that we all share in our humanity.
What are your future plans?
My ambition is to establish a creative platform or agency of some sort that will allow creative like minds to express themselves.
My motto is ‘What we have is all we have and all we have is what we have’. These are not just words, the reflect my core vision and aspiration not just as an artist but as a human being to give back to people who are not as fortunate as other might be.
We end this interview by quoting a poem by Eden Ahbez:
“Heaven and Earth become my great open cathedral, where all man are brothers, where all things are bound by love, and crowned with love. Poor, alone and happy, I walk by the surf, and make a fire on the beach, and as darkness covers the face of the deep, I lie down in the wild grass and dream the dreams that the dreamers dream. I am the wind, the sea, the evening star. I am everyone, anyone, no one”.
Yussef Agbo-Ola is a young photographer with a powerful vision. His dramatic images express the emotive power of the human body while drawing on his heritage and strong sense of design. Explaining his approach to photography, the artist says, “My work comes from a place in my mind I call ‘home.’ Here a union of images and ideas is first revealed that is truly the genesis of my art. My mind starts racing with a passion to translate this union of images and ideas into a formal artistic expression. Everything moving around me transforms into a mixture of light. And the light inspires me to explore, discover and create.” A junior at VCU, Agbo-Ola is a native of Suffolk, VA. He is a multi-media artist creating video, performance art and fashion design.
All images courtesy of the artist, Yussef Agbo-Ola. All rights reserved.