They say a picture paints a thousand words, and Onnalin “Onn” Lojanagosin’s creations perfectly capture the contrast between art and living through the play of chiaroscuro. In this interview, we peek behind the paintings to form a clearer portrait of the lady behind them.
Graduating with a master degree in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, Onnalin has always had a penchant for the works of the old masters. Through a conversation with her, one is mesmerised by the contrast that exists in her. As a painter, one would expect a secluded artist who solely focuses on their trade. Yet Onnalin is both a master of the canvas and the managing director who’s led SEASONS, a studio for fine art and furniture, into a new renaissance.
Why did you want to pursue Fine Art and painting?
I’ve always had an affinity for craftsmanship. It’s a personal liking. As for why, I am not quite sure. After all, we like what we like. It’s always been like that for me. I kept going back to Turner, even when I was walking around the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain. Contemporary art doesn’t quite touch me in the same ways that the works of the old masters would.
Take something that dates back to the Ancient Greek era, such as the rule of harmony—the harmonic armature—of an image discovered thousands of years ago and is still applicable now. People still use it now. Things that come from the past are very much still with us today. It shows that craft and beauty transcend time. That’s why as an artist, I’ve never had that concern to tell a new story or be contemporary.
Artists or movements that inspire you.
I’ve always liked things here and there. I do, however, have a special love for Tonalism and art from the 19th century. Anyone from that period is pure genius—the time of the painter’s painters—that’s the golden century for me. A lot of very fine painters and writers such as John Singer Sargent, Antonio Mancini, Anders Zorn, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf and many more came from this period.
As a Fine Art artist, were there any challenges?
Oh, definitely. When you think of fine art, the word itself suggests that the work has to be of impeccable quality. From your ideas to the execution, everything has to be of top quality. There’s the self-expectation as well; the pressure can sometimes be suffocating. I cannot let anything leave the studio if I’m not pleased with it, and that can be tiring as I expect a lot from myself and set a very high bar when it comes to the quality of my work.
It applies to Seasons, too. I won’t work with companies that come with issues of quality. That’s always been my religion. Everything has to be of fine craftsmanship and top quality. And that’s a challenge in a world where everything is moving at a rapid pace today. Everything is now slapdash, and they come and go. Fine art is not like that. You need to dedicate your time and patience—tons of it, to reach that level of craftsmanship, not to mention perseverance and an immense amount of passion. It’s not for everyone because it goes against the fast-moving pace of the world today. You can’t rush a painting and you have to accept the fact that it does take a long time to be a good painter.
How did Seasons lead to your studies at The Florence Academy of Art?
After CSM (Central Saint Martins), I came back to work in Thailand and went on to do the business side and the operation of Seasons. Then after about eight years of that, I couldn’t resist my inner calling any longer and had to go back to pursue art.
I go to Italy every year for work, and The Florence Academy of Art seemed like what I needed. I wanted to draw and paint. Plus, the fact that it’s in Italy means I could continue my work with Seasons. Everything fell into place. It was very convenient. You can get the train to Milan to see the suppliers during my studies (laughs).
What are your current inspirations?
The more I paint, the more I become interested in seeking beauty in ordinary things. When you paint something inherently interesting, it’s not very difficult to get attention. Like a striking portrait or a dramatic landscape because the subject itself helps. But if you’re painting something seemingly mundane, it’s a little more challenging. It is the artist’s job to seek and depict the beauty otherwise not seen by others. I respect artists like Andrew Wyeth. His subject is so mundane at times, but the way he depicts them is so profoundly moving.
How does art translate into Seasons of Living?
I don’t think it’s that far apart—my line of work and what I do for Seasons. Being a painter, your eyes tend to be sensitive to colours and designs because painting is essentially the backbone of everything in design and art. Every genre of art comes from painting—it teaches you composition, colour, lines and design—everything that’s applicable to interior design. If anything, picking up painting has benefited my way of selecting furniture for Seasons because my eyes have become more sensitive to quality and beauty.
And so the two things go hand in hand, you see. I’d look at brands and help the company decide on their aesthetic qualities, which ones would work for us and talk to the suppliers in Italy. In that sense, I’m lucky as they’re not two separate worlds.
(All paintings by and courtesy of Onnalin Lojanagosin)