Yisa Akinbolaji: Layers Upon Layers of Paint

By Cassie Rief in Featured Artists > Oil Paintings

A unique masking technique allows Winnipeg-based artist Yisa Akinbolaji the flexibility to uncover forms, colors and patterns that lie beneath his topmost layers of oil or acrylic paint.

By applying a starchy paint-resistant substance to his canvas, Yisa prevents the top layer of paint from permanently adhering to the paint below. . . which allows him to easily remove layers later. He began experimenting with this technique in 1993, and uses his paintings, as well as mosaic installations and printmaking, to tap into his African and Western heritage.

Yisa’s ability to control his paint, layer by layer, is what makes his work so fascinating and dynamic. It’s hard to feel anything but joy when I look at the exciting bursts of color and texture in Music Everywhere.

Music Everywhere

The playful use of abstract elements—like the lines of music and the hint of what appears to be a guitar’s headstock—along with the tiny symbols detailing the bottom of the painting make it downright impossible not to smile at the pure energy of it all.

I chose to feature this next painting, called Faith, from one of Yisa’s earlier galleries because I find his use of negative white space within the painting quite remarkable.


So much white adds an entirely new dimension and intrigue that you rarely see in a painting. All of those (seemingly) haphazard white lines actually give contour to a boy’s figure, pulling him forward from the white background while still leaving him connected to it.

Less is more in Faith. . . and the painting’s simple rawness lends itself to the fragile state and moment that this boy is experiencing.

Finally, I think Find a Treasure is the perfect painting to complete today’s trio.

Find A Treasure

The piece sings with layer after layer of intricate color and texture. . . each layer is a curtain, partially pulled back, slowly revealing the painting’s true depth.

I keep trying to look further inside the painting, to decipher what is taking place at every level. As a result, I’m left wondering what hidden treasures I have yet to discover in this piece.

If you enjoyed the three paintings above, then you must take the time to view Yisa’s online gallery. His website features a wonderful slideshow of his work, and also delves a bit deeper into Yisa’s artistic experiences.


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