Rosio Flynn is quite happy to be interviewed and have her house photographed – but, she asks, can I give her a week to finish her blue Buddha painting?
As I walk into the Jalan Novena house, I spot it immediately, taking pride of place between two others in the entrance hall. Its eventual destination is the stairway, but for now it’s being shown off like a new baby.
The walls are full of art, from the enormous flowers that she began with six years ago to the inscrutable Buddha faces that she’s in love with at the moment. The distinctive “Rosio” signature is everywhere – is all the art hers? Mostly, she admits, but adds, “I don’t want us to live with only my paintings. I like to have the work of other artists, too.”
So a big abstract by Chinese artist Liu Wei dominates the living room, and the stairway features an interior by the Australian Ken Done, which the couple acquired at a Sydney auction, another by Peruvian artist Maria Silva Villacorta, and a Vietnamese painting by Don Hua, purchased at Dragonwick Gallery.
Six months after moving here, Rosio met Angie Mui, also known as Framing Angie, and the two became good friends. Not only do they collaborate on the framing of Rosio’s art, but they have also worked together on a number of charitable projects. “I have done some work for the orphanage House of Blessings in Thailand, and helped organise events for Youth Challenge. Caring for Cambodia is another deserving institution that I’m looking at.”
How did Rosio become an artist? “I enjoyed art at school, but my parents’ expectations guided me to a university education and a conventional career. Coming to Singapore, living the expat life, has given me the opportunity to take art lessons and develop as an artist. For the past six years, I’ve been having art lessons from the same Singaporean art teacher, Mr Ang.”
In the formal dining room are two stunning examples of Rosio’s early work: a giant red rose, and a massive red sunflower. Looking at the depth and richness of the huge petals, it’s difficult to believe that this intensity was achieved with watercolours and charcoal alone. “I use a lot of layers,” she explains, “and it takes me a long time. I’ve had offers for these paintings, but they were my first, and I’m so attached to them that I just can’t let them go.”
Like Paddington Bear, Rosio is from Peru. She grew up in Lima, and her family emigrated to Australia when she was 18. In Sydney she met Colin Flynn, who she says “grew up on the beach, was a lifesaver and a typical Aussie”.
Before his job – he is now with the technology and consulting company Capgemini – brought them to Singapore in 2002, she worked for twelve years for Gucci, eventually as the brand’s countrywide wholesale manager. (I gulp guiltily, hoping she hasn’t spotted the distinctive logo all over the knockoff handbag I’ve stashed in one corner.)
Sons Harrison (9) and Oliver (6) are at Chatsworth International. “I love the school!” enthuses their mother. “I love the location, and it’s very small and very personal. Chatsworth listens and responds to parents’ concerns to an amazing degree.”
Architect-designed and built just five years ago, this is a dream home for a family. “Colin loved it on sight, and had to have it,” says Rosio. “We’ve been here for fourteen months now, and it still feels like a holiday home.”
As she shows me around, the mid-morning sun is beating down outside, but fresh air wafts through open French doors into a high-ceilinged interior. Enormous koi circle lazily in two ponds, one indoors and the other on the patio off the living room. The patio features a built-in dining table where the family generally eat – all meals except breakfast. Rosio explains that the boys have to be confined indoors to the casual dining room for breakfast; otherwise, “They’d see the lawn and be off like a flash to play soccer.”
This light-filled room is also where Rosio paints, and a couple of easels hold the two pieces she’s working on – another Buddha head, this time in greens and golds, and a funky reclining lady.
The opposite wall is full of photographs, trophies and other memorabilia of Colin’s passion for breeding and racing horses. The twenty or so horses he owns are kept at the stables of John Morrisey on Australia’s Gold Coast. Some are breeding now down at Scone in the Hunter Valley, says Rosio, most notably A Little Naughty, who has won a number of races and quite a lot of money for her owners. They also have high hopes of a full sitster to Singapore’s leading horse, Top Spin, which they have appropriately named Durian.
Upstairs is small TV lounge for the boys, complete with games and a foosball table. There’s a deck to an outdoor spa bath on a little balcony, and more steps up to a spacious terrace with views across to United Square and Novena Square. Her boys love to play up here, says Rosio, and an attic room stores all their games and toys in preternatural neatness. There’s a pool behind the house, but best of all is a small public park right next door that is hardly ever used by anyone else; what a find for two active boys.
The Flynns brought all their furniture with them. “We had everything we needed, and anyway, I didn’t want to go overboard with Asian style,” says Rosio. Instead, she has picked up a variety of Asian odds and ends as she has come across them.
At Sky Baba she found the ornately carved hall table, a pair of bronze urns, and, flanking the TV, two four-metre-long vertical wooden strips carved with auspicious Chinese messages. She says she especially likes the rareness and unusualness of Sky Baba’s pieces, and often goes there for special gifts for friends.
The hollowed-out Buddha head in the living room, which was probably used for something like grinding grain, is from Cambodia. “I love Buddha images,” confesses Rosio, “and I don’t quite know why I have such an affinity for them. The children have started to say, ‘Please, Mummy, no more Buddhas.’”
Next to the koi pond is a painted Tibetan cabinet from a shop in Tanglin Mall. It is topped with a trio of carved minstrels picked up in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from a restaurant and shop known as The Gallery.
How much time does Rosio spend painting? Unless she finds herself with spare time, she generally paints no more than a couple of times a week. That’s not surprising for a mother of two whom I have come to know as a social animal and networker of note. What’s more, the family “practically lives” at the American Club. “I go to the gym, and the boys have swimming and tennis lessons there. Joining the club was the best thing we could have done.”
The kitchen is Colin’s domain; his wife does not cook. Apart from horses, his passions are cooking and golf. I have no idea what handicap he plays off, but having once enjoyed a four-course dinner cooked by him, I can attest to Mr Flynn’s being a magnificent cook.
If I play my cards right, I might just get an invitation to sit around that alfresco dining table again, surrounded by those peaceful Buddha images and within crumb-tossing distance of those fat, circling koi.
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