A Mélange of Vibrant Colors
By Leila Shauk

It was a coolish and wintry day in Santa Monica.  A good day to go to an art reception.  I walked into the Schomburg Gallery at Bergamot Station excited to see paintings by both my aunt and her daughter -- my cousin. My aunt, Nasreen Haroon, has been painting for many years.  With her meticulous attention to detail and bright colors, she is perhaps most known for her landscape pieces that include views of the Kaaba during prayer, as well as Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica beach views.  

Her daughter, Sana, has said she’s always been painting, but not until recently has she started to exhibit her pieces.  Each with their own distinct style; what can be said about both artists is that they have vivid paintings filled with all kinds of light and color whether in the form of a galaxy-looking universe made up of tiny dots or deep deliberate brush strokes mixing into one another.  Indeed, this exhibit is mostly about abstract expressionism.  

Deep purples and greens are lovely backgrounds to the starry world of dots that Nasreen creates.  Her purple painting, when looked at closely, is like looking into another universe.  Teensey dots of yellows, reds, golds, and purples sit next to each other like many stars against a dark purple sky.  She continues this theme on different backdrops of bold color.  They are intense and yet wondrous; light and dark; playful and yet serious.  You may want to take a look, and then come back and look at them again.

Across from this astronomical complexity -- at Sana’s wall of paintings, are heavily brush stroked whirls of colors entangled and moving into each other -- sort of reminiscent of Jackson Pollack.  Again a palette of primary colors is captivating; the reds, yellows, greens, blues, and purples are warm but also perhaps harsh.  Sana explained that while working on some of her pieces it was an emotionally challenging time for her.  Henceforth, the ferocious and aggressive movement of colors is both quite apt and evocative.  In contrast to this style, a Rothko-like painting consisting of panels of different colors offers a more calm and quiet tone.

Another wall, in the middle -- an interlude of sorts (a bridge between Sana and Nasreen’s art), has a perfectly serene and delicate ocean painting by Nasreen, as well as a fascinating painting of both horizontal and vertical lines crossing, by Sana.  The latter painting, Sana spoke about as having a “modern” aesthetic, and at that moment as if discovering something new about it, she noted that it perhaps looks like a “jail cell”-- especially because of the rusty brown color in the corner of a set of criss-crossed lines.  Interesting how we gather new meaning when go back to something; the process of studying and observing art closely is surely satisfying.

Apart from the colorful art, during their exhibit’s reception, a convivial and sophisticated crowd of family and friends arrived from late afternoon through late evening.  I was pleasantly surprised to see more and more people walk in; the turn-out suffice it to say was excellent.  I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with friends and family.  I asked them questions about the art.  Each had a favorite piece, and some even wanted to buy certain ones.  Above all, everyone was enjoying the organic mélange of vibrant colors in an intimate one-room gallery space.

At the end of the reception, an engineering student noted that he preferred the criss-cross lined paintings because to him they evoked “structure and meaning.”  The more frenetic pieces begged him to ask where they were going; ultimately, he said, he was left wanting more.  A good story leaves one wanting more; similar to a good painting that leaves one standing still in curiosity and wonder.  Moreover, each painting at the exhibit is exciting and passionate. The teensey dots that Nasreen so carefully puts together are apt for her style of sharp precision and detail.  Sana’s often fiery art also careful in its own way, yet deliberately entangled and complex, is playful and inspiring.  

(Leila Shauk is a voracious reader, a strong writer, a food enthusiast, and a passionate yogi.  She studied at Sarah Lawrence College with a concentration in literature and creative writing.  As a writer, she tends to write about food, and her creative writing includes both poetry and short fiction.  She teaches yoga at Mount St. Mary’s College in Brentwood, and lives in Santa Monica)


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