GIANT ice-cream cones, elongated fibreglass Pink Panthers and wooden panels of Buddhas embossed with Coca-Cola and Facebook logos — the London-based Russian pop artist Olga Lomaka’s work has been described as everything from bonkers to magical, humorous to existential.
Her sculptural series Pink Magic, which features that lanky, enigmatic panther, was picked out by rebel potter Grayson Perry when he curated the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition in 2018, bringing her to the attention of 300,000 art lovers — and confirming her place among the capital’s pantheon of contemporary artists.
‘I grew up in Moscow but I always knew that was not my final destination,’ says Olga, 37, who even as a young child created art from dawn to dusk. Her work is now represented in galleries, museums, biennales and private collections across the world. ‘I have always been passionate about learning and understanding different traditions.’
A trip to London at the age of 14 to study English changed the course of her life. ‘It was difficult not to fall in love with the city — the multicultural atmosphere, beautiful cobbled streets, the museums, the people, the bars. I was determined that one day I would live in this magical, bewildering city.’
Having studied at both Central Saint Martins and Camberwell College of Arts, Olga has set up home here, committed to a life of creativity. ‘I was convinced I was an artist, and refused to give in to outsider pressure,’ she says. ‘I am happy I stood by my passion in life, though it hasn’t always been an easy choice.’
Like many Londoners, Olga has been nomadic, moving home several times. She took on her current, jewel-bright flat, in a classic Georgian white stucco townhouse in Belgravia, at the start of the year. ‘I didn’t plan to move to Belgravia, thinking it would be a bit quiet and a bit cold, but as soon as I walked into the flat it felt like home, with its high-ceilinged, bright and spacious rooms.”
As she is renting, she hasn’t been able to make any structural changes to the ground and lower ground floor two-bedroom home, which has a studio and patio, but has treated the white-painted space as if it were a blank canvas.
‘You could create anything on it just by decorating, which is exactly what I have done. I have filled it with my furniture, artwork and accessories to give it my character, mixing old with new.’
Unsurprisingly, there’s not a stroke of greige in the flat. Being fearless when it comes to injecting bold, playful strokes of colour into a home is all part of being a pop artist, Olga says, but the secret is to not overwhelm a space. ‘Strong, bright neon colours can have a powerful effect on emotions,’ she says. ‘I use bright colours only as accessories, in artwork and textiles, keeping backdrops and larger pieces of furniture neutral.’
Regular trips to Alfies Antique Market, in north-west London, and galleries on the Pimlico Road as well as vintage shops of the Cotswold town of Tetbury, have proved rich hunting grounds, with Vitra, Poliform and designers such as Philippe Starck, Andrew Martin and Andrianna Shamaris providing the home’s contemporary edge.
Indulgently comfortable neutrally-coloured, deep-cushioned sofas and armchairs are brought to life by Missoni cushions, with quirky, animal-themed lamps and Venetian glassware arranged on bone-inlaid side tables, creating an intimate salon feel. Treasures unearthed on expeditions to some of her favourite countries include the antique wooden horse found on Sumba Island in Indonesia and a bronze Shiva figurine bought in India. Installations, sculpture and paintings — both her own and by others — are, of course, given a starring role in the scheme. Above her sofa hangs Melting Flower, a colour-popping abstract painting by Khadija Choudhury, juxtaposed with Olga’s own chrome Pink Panther sculpture.
With her vision for her home completed right before lockdown, Olga, who lives alone, is desperate to host her friends and family here. Her isolation has, however, provided powerful inspiration for her work. ‘The lockdown has helped me to focus, as the outside world has stopped distracting me,’ she says. ‘The limitations of time have also disappeared, giving me the freedom to be endlessly creative.’
Impressively, she has also found time to brush up on her Italian, and has developed a passion for meditating and running. But it’s the redemptive power of art that she will keep returning to.
Her new series of chrome sculptures, Through Time And Space, has just been released and shows her Pink Panther as a melting, futuristic idol sent back in time, returning to remind us about the importance of the present moment.
‘We need art now more than ever,’ says Olga, who has been offering donations of her work to support the NHS.
‘Many artists around the world have been adapting to shutdowns by swapping physical spaces for virtual ones. Art has the power to instil positive messages, preserving how it feels to be in a particular place at a particular time — and, in this sense, is a vehicle for social change.’
■ Olga’s Through Time And Space series is available now, from £5,000. New prints, The Cosmic Voyage, will follow, from £50, through Jealous Studio; jealousprints.com, Instagram @lomakaart and olgalomaka.com
Get the pop art look
Bursts of bright colour are a must, but don’t overdo it. Olga recommends keeping walls and main pieces of furniture neutral, and using art, textiles, rugs and lamps to introduce bold hues. Don’t be scared of mixing up contemporary art and installations with antiques and high-street pieces.
Olga’s two luxe fireside armchairs are from The Sofa & Chair Company. From £1,700 each, The Sofa & Chair Company, thesofaandchair.co.uk.
Animal-themed accessories are big, like this Gold Flamingo Table Lamp, £135, including the shade, Graham & Green, grahamandgreen.co.uk.
Banish piles of papers and mags into the classic Kartell magazine rack. £175, Heals, heals.com.
This Rose Geometric Vase with gold edging is perfect filled with flowers. £42, Graham & Green, grahamand green.co.uk.
This Riley Bone Inlay Coffee Table is one with a difference! £475; Graham & Green, grahamandgreen.co.uk.
Subversive modern art is a great talking point. Buy a 55cm x 75cm screenprint of Olga’s Teasing Not Pleasing, £370; Jealous, jealousgallery.com.
No artist’s home is complete without a 1962 Arco floor lamp, created by Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni for Flos. Olga’s is a rarely available gold model, which could set you back more than £1,700. For a cheaper version try Bow Large Arc Overreach Floor Lamp in brass and black marble, £149; Made, made.com.