Exclusive Interview with Oksana Flanagan in Bali@TheRoyalPitaMaha
Tell me about your creativity. Why exactly do you mainly paint flowers ?
My love for flowers comes from my mom. We used to have a big garden with plenty of flowers and I helped my mother to take care of them. As a child, my mom taught me how to make flowers from raffia string. My mother sent me to learn art when I was about 8 – 9 years old. I saw these Japanese ladies painting sakura cherry blossoms during an art class. I fell in love with these paintings painted with aquarelle (water colour) and I wished to be able to create my own Chinese brush technique as well. And so I did and I can say that I was quite good at it. Chinese Brush painting is an impressionist style of painting which shows the energy and feeling of the artist. It is not easy to master this technique without many years of hard work and practice. For many years I attended weekly Chinese brush painting lessons . At the age of 17 I had my first solo exhibition where I exhibited 42 pieces of paintings of flowers, birds and animals. I was able to sell many paintings and donated much of the proceeds to a local college where my father was the Chairman.
I was in University of Adelaide, Australia where I was studying Economics and Accounting. I kept on painting and was able to have a joint exhibition with a local Australian artist at the Greenhill Galleries in Adelaide. When I graduated from University, I came back home to Malaysia.
When one is married and busy with work, family and children I almost do not have anytime to myself and to work on my creativity.
I took my children for painting classes and I felt that I needed to draw again after the many years of doing life and working. I then started again on Oil painting lessons and found that I really enjoy painting flowers and this is what I love to paint for the last 5 – 6 years out of the twelve years of doing oil painting.
I realise that real flowers will bring their own beauty to the world for no longer than a week. But my art will keep and capture the moment of its beauty forever.
You will see a lot of hatches and lines on my paintings. All these lines are connected together and they have a particular goal. In my dreams I often see different flowers and shades and I know how I can transfer them to the canvas. And these colours are alive when there is light which can give not just a shine to the paintings but also give a hope to people looking at it. I am using very bright colours in my paintings.
For example I combine orange and purple colours which are totally different in hues which looks great on the canvas. These colours have the power to make someone feel happy. Some people are saying I am using too many colours on one canvas but I am not a follower of trends and rules. I am drawing what makes me feel happy and I hope it will make someone else happy too when they look at them.
P842: Q. You put your soul into your paintings and it might be very hard to let it go. How do you get an idea for your drawings ? How do you understand what exactly you want to draw?
When I am drawing my paintings, I am not just creating them, I invest my feelings, emotion and energy into. Part of my being is in every painting. My flowers are a concentration and focus of life and energy which is longing to be heard and seen. In life we don’t have the time to pay attention to small tiny flowers because they are just so insignificant. That is why I make it a point to present and magnify these tiny flowers into larger than life sizes to tell the world how beautiful one insignificant life can possibly be.
P846 : During my travels , I take pictures of the flowers I encounter and will try to convert their beauty with colours on to the canvas. My paintings usually end up very different from the actual photo taken. Each painting reminds me about my adventures and moments in my life. Each drawing tells a story and it is like a time capsule.
P848: Question : Could you share with us your plans for the future ?
I would love to draw as many paintings as possible, and exhibit them more often. But there are limits of that how many one person can create with one pair of hands. I am planning to create prints and would love to print my paintings perhaps even one day on fabric. It would be my dream and passion to be able to start a social enterprise to help women from poor families to learn a skill to give them an opportunity to improve their quality of life. As I have more opportunities than others and I think it is my passion and privilege to be help others who are less fortunate.
P850 : Question: what do you see when you are looking at the flowers ?
When I look at the flowers I see the reality of life and now I am in Bali, and a few days ago in my walk in Ubud, I noticed one child sitting alone on a side street. My heart breaks when I see how children are suffering. I use my art to give them a chance to go to school to learn something new and change their life for the better. Children are like flowers , they flourish when you give them enough nutrients. Every child has his or her own potential to become a beautiful, strong and bright flower. But unfortunately not every child has similar or equal opportunities.
P852 : Question: You reflect realities in your art. What would you like to deliver to your readers ? How can they help you and what type of people would you like to work with ?
As how I have already mentioned , I would like to produce prints. I would like to develop in this direction and I would love to collaborate with people in the fashion industry or even in the restaurant business. I love to eat healthy and it is imaginable to have a restaurant from farm to table. Where the walls will hang the paintings and table cloths on the table are decorated with my work of art. The guests will enjoy fresh ecological dishes surrounded by the colourful art items. I would love to collaborate with any organization or person who wants and could help as the possibilities are unlimited. I would love to have people purchase my paintings and products as they would be helping to contribute into the lives of many needy children.
Question : You are doing a charity and who are you trying to help ?
Most of the money from my exhibition in 2015 I have donated to charity to an organization and a school which gives education to children from poor and destitute families. Dignity for Children Foundation is one that has a vision to protect the rights of the refugee children or children from hardcore poor families who do not have an opportunity to be educated in a normal school. The other part of the proceeds was donated to the Bursary of Sri Sempurna International School to help children who needs financial aid.
I am not indifferent to the children’s suffering and am ardently keen that they have a chance to learn. That’s why I my exhibition was titled “ Flowers of Hope”.
P854 : Question: How many paintings did you sell around the world and is there a possibility to see them again ?
I would like to start selling my paintings all around the world. But for now it has just been in Malaysia. Every one of my paintings is like a personal journal where I am keeping my emotion and moments of life. I dream about the possibility to share this experience with people in every part of the planet and give them an opportunity to hear my call for action. I would love to make my art more available through the prints or cards so that everyone has a chance to be close to the beauty God has given to each one.
The above translation from Russian to English is done by Mariya Kashechevsca and credit goes to Mariya. I met her on board the Silver Shadow in Bangkok. That story will be in my next blog post.