For all of our Under The Loupe lovers, if you loved Olivia Annabelle's Lover's Eye dresses, then you will love reading all about our next honourable guest: Fatima Ronquillo. A self-taught Filipino-American painter, Fatima's incredible paintings are inspired by mythology, lore and magical realism. Not to mention, the way she captures the lustre of a Pearl's nacre and the emotion of a Lover's Eye jewel is certainly one of the reasons why she is so successful. Favoured by Gucci's Alessandro Michele, let's chat to Fatima all about her beautiful historical paintings.
Hi Fatima, thank you for being featured on our “Under The Loupe” page, please introduce yourself!
"Hello, I am a Filipino-American oil painter living in Santa Fe, New Mexico."
It’s really incredible and inspirational that you are a self-taught painter. Please elaborate more on this journey and when did this start?
"I am a lover of paintings and art history. I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. It is an instinct that is as natural to me as walking. I also love books, so when I was in middle school, I would go to the library and pore over art books. Somewhere I read that the masters copied older masters, and so I thought that I could learn that way too. For many years I just copied drawings from books. I copied from all different eras, just picking up whatever I happened to fancy, from Michelangelo to Renoir."
"Euridyce",2021, Oil on Panel, 14 x 11 inches, Source - Fatima Ronquillo
Where did your first interaction with the Lover’s Eye motif come about, and how did it become integral to your latest pieces of work?
"I don’t remember exactly, but it’s probably from a blog somewhere on the internet. At the time I was researching the theme of the Mexican “recuerdos” or mementos. These were small tin forms of body parts, like an arm or heart, that were part of prayers. The lover’s eye was reminiscent of that but it was a form of a lover’s devotion rather than a religious one. I was just stunned by the imagery of an eye portrait, and the fact that it is set almost like a jewel is also very attractive. That was probably back in 2010 or so and I’ve been painting them ever since. It’s a recurring motif for me as my paintings often have love as a subject matter. The lover’s eye is a terribly romantic imagery of hidden love, of devotion and of loss. It is also a conceit of a portrait within a portrait."
"Time Regained: Hand with Proust and Forget-Me-Nots", 2019, Oil on Panel 8 x 6 inches, Source - Fatima Ronquillo
What other inspirations feed into your paintings? I read on your blog that you are interested by magical realism, I would love to know more about what inspires you!
"What I love about painting is the endless possibilities. Literature and opera inspire me quite a lot. Poetry often finds its way into my paintings, either literally painted in like in the hand paintings holding billets-doux or as a background story. I’ve often referenced Shakespeare, Christina Rossetti, and most recently Maya Angelou. Just like in magical realism, verses open up a lyrical vision of the world."
How as the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns affected your work?
"It’s been quite difficult working in the studio. Somehow time is at once very slow and very fast. In the beginning, I noticed that I was painting swirling vines, almost as if nature was enclosing in. Perhaps it’s a subconscious acknowledgement of the hyper-vigilance we are all under. I also intentionally wanted to reflect the resilience of nature and our relationship with it. Right now, I’ve been most interested in stories of lovers who’ve lost and found each other, like Orpheus and Euridyce."
"Orpheus" 2021, Oil on Panel, 10 x 8 inches Source - Fatima Ronquillo
It’s evident that Greek Mythology has heavily fed into your work also, which Greek myths are your favourite?
"I love the stories of metamorphoses, especially those that involve the mythological origin of flora (Narcissus, Anemone, Amaryllis) and those that feature lovers--Cupid and Psyche or Orpheus and Euridyce."
Your artwork is very reminiscent of pieces by the Old Masters, is there a particular artist that you are always drawn towards?
"I actually love a lot of painters and there’s always one or two at any given moment that I focus on. If I must pick then I will say Watteau, because even though he painted lovers and the fête galante genre, there is a wistfulness that imbues his work. His paintings feel very intimate and mysterious to me with their surface elegance and hidden longings. I regularly visit the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California and make a pilgrimage to his little nude painting in their collection. It’s become an old friend."
"Hand with Snake and Weeping Eye" 2016, Oil on Panel, 7 x 5 inches, Source - Fatima Ronquillo
Your pieces have been featured in numerous fashion magazines like The Cut, Vogue Gioiello and A Magazine Curated By Alessandro Michele! Are there places you aspire to be featured in in future?
"Finding my works mentioned in fashion magazines is actually a very pleasant surprise to me. I am just happy that my paintings are being introduced to more people by those who like them."
Are there any selected works that are your favourite?
I fall in love with my paintings, especially those that I spend a lot of time with and with motifs I revisit. Right now one of my favourite works is “The First Jasmines” my first original lithograph print which began as a painting inspired by Rabindranath Tagore’s poem about the poet’s life journey. The simplicity and innocence of the drawn line, my first love, feels very close and immediate to me. I rarely show my drawings because they feel so personal to me. This is as close as I have gotten to sharing the affinity I have with the medium.
Also I have been painting a lot of hummingbirds, because I sometimes see them during my daily walks. They are these miniature and jewel-like birds that surprisingly possess great strength and stamina. I’ve often painted them with hands and jewels and most recently I released an etching of “Hand with Hummingbird and Lover’s Eye”. It was created in the midst of the pandemic and was a way of helping out the Navajo community which was devastated by Covid. I love the hummingbird symbolism as told by a Navajo friend’s grandmother: “The hummingbird represents ability to perform quickly with beauty in whatever the task. So if you catch one, hold gently and bless yourself with it saying a prayer….It’s name is k’aa loo gii…”
"Hand with Hummingbird and Lover’s Eye" 2020, etching, aquatint, spit-bite image size 8 × 6 inches, Source - Fatima Ronquillo
What techniques do you use to paint jewellery?
"Nothing in particular, sometimes I use a magnifying lamp if it’s really small."
Do you have any exciting things in the pipeline that you are happy to share?
"I will be showing some paintings in Europe soon."
"Hand with Pearls and Lovers’ Eyes" 2017, Oil on Panel, 7 × 5 inches, Source - Fatima Ronquillo
Do you have a favourite piece from our Lillicoco collection?
"The 18th C. gold swallow brooch with sapphire eye. I also adore the turquoise and pearl pieces. Turquoise for New Mexico where I live and pearls for the Philippines where I was born."