Nasreen & Sana Haroon’s Compelling Exhibit at the Schomburg Gallery
By Nika Cavat

The relationship between inspiration and actualization for an artist is an ever changing, dynamic one. Pakistani-American painter, Nareen Haroon’s creative journey, has taken her to some of the most exotic parts of the world. Over the last twenty years, she has exhibited in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, the Cultural Palace in Sharjah, and Algiers, Algeria. It was in Algeria that Nasreen, as a representative for the Art in Embassies Program in the US State Department, taught a children’s art workshop, held master classes at the Academy of Fine Arts, and was interviewed on “Bonjour Algerie”, a popular morning talk show. Her verdant landscape paintings hang in embassies from Pakistan and Senegal to the United Arab Emirates.

From February 9 – March 2, Nasreen and her daughter, Sana Haroon’s abstract paintings will be on exhibit at the Schomburg Gallery, Bergamot Station Art Center, in Santa Monica. The tea reception will be on February 9, from 3:30 – 6:30. For many years, mother and daughter have been traveling the globe, working, and now painting together. The results are truly cosmic.

What you will find interesting is both how one influences the other, and how distinctly each artist’s style differs from the other. Take, for example, Nasreen’s “Celestial”, a 24” x 36”painting with a deep purple background, and spattering of yellow, white, and blood red. She applied several coats or “constellations”, using various sized brushes. The splatters – the distances, sizes, and shapes – may appear random. In truth, however, Nasreen figured out through trial and error, how to better control the manner in which the paint leaves the brush. The effect lends itself to associative thinking: the Aurora Borealis, an explosion of hot and cold elements, flaring emotions, the micro-photography of organic things, to name just a few.

Then, look at daughter, Sana’s smaller work, “Flurry”, where she has used clear, wide brushstrokes, laying on luxurious amounts of midnight blue, maroon, rose, and grey oil paint. The colors pop against a bright white background, and the effect nicely compliments her mother’s more diffuse “Celestial”. Sana studied fashion design at Otis College for Art & Design before transferring to USC. But it is really the exposure over a lifetime of being raised in an artist’s studio by a mother so generous with her knowledge where Sana has learned the most about art. Sana’s “Diffusion (vertical)” and “Diffusion (horizontal)” are bold, luscious works, with washes of red, white, marigold, and velvety dark blue that reflect a joyous departure from the concrete. While Sana brings a certain orderly sensibility to some of the works on display, her mother offers a cosmic, though surprisingly internalized awareness.

Nasreen attributes the break from her former landscape paintings, in part, to having finally recovered from a long illness. Thus, she has allowed herself to unabashedly go headlong into abstract imagery. Nasreen’s “Stellar” utilizes a red backdrop against which dance constellations of turquoise, dark blue, and bright white splatter marks; it is reminiscent of the pulses of colored lights you’d see high over a strangely red city at night. It is not uncommon for artists, particularly established ones like Nasreen, to change up their subject matter and styles. Although Nasreen has enjoyed international success with her tropical and European landscapes, she felt it was time for a transformation. Order and chaos. The familiar pleasure of lines (Sana’s “Smog”), alongside the darkly emotional blasts of splattered dots (Nareen’s “Stellar”). The binary opposites of closely bound stars that push against, then draw toward one another. These are what their paintings evoke standing before them. If, indeed, humans at some level are made up of celestial dust, you will almost certainly feel yourself drawn in to this compelling mother-daughter exhibit.

Schomburg Gallery, Bergamot Station Arts Center

2525 Michigan Ave., E3A

Santa Monica, CA 90404


Hours: Weds-Sat. 11 am – 6 pm


(Nika Cavat is a free-lance writer, poet, and essayist with publications both on-line and in print. She teaches English at a private school and lives in Venice with her daughter, Aurora (named after the Northern Lights). Her book of poetry, collaboration with artist mother, Irma Cavat, The Braille That Is Love, is due out March, 2013)



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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