Natasha Shoro approaches her abstract expressionist paintings intuitively. Working in her Irvine home studio, listening to exotic dance music, she picks up her brushes and palette knives, dips them into brightly colored paints, and incorporates collage elements, some with South Asian textile designs. Moving joyously to dance music, she paints swirls, biomorphic shapes and intricate patterning onto her canvases. The results are large multicolored artworks, infused with symbols and influences from her life, and often inspired by the forces of nature.

In an interview in her contemporary home, with her magnificent artworks displayed throughout, Shoro explains that the abstract paintings of Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Julie Mehretu and Paul Jenkins have influenced her to follow her own bliss as an artist. She is particularly enamored with these painters’ exploration of color, form and fluidity.

Shoro’s childhood influences on her art have included residing in four continents and learning about diverse cultures; observing aerial landscapes from airplane windows as she traveled widely; and inspiration by her parents. “My mother and father played a big role in encouraging me to follow my dreams and passions to paint,” she says, adding that her mother’s own fashion and fabric designs continue to inspire her.

“Illuminate” (Courtesy of the artist)

Yet the iconography in her paintings, while not specific to any culture, references symbols from nature. Her painting “Illuminate” (2019) incorporates broad swaths of reds, oranges and purples, suggesting the energy, passion and light-giving properties of fire. “Spring Breeze” (2019), featuring painterly bands in deep greens, yellows and blues, with colors merging into each other, symbolizes the burst of spring, along with the calming effects of flowing water. “Super Bloom” (2019), with its overlapping oranges, yellows and deeper earth tones, brings viewers to the warmth of the earth and the air during the summer. These paintings are displayed in her current Soka University exhibition (see below).

Having grown up in Africa (Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo and Monrovia, Liberia), Europe (Paris, Lyon, Geneva, Switzerland), Pakistan and the United States, and speaking English, French and Urdu, Shoro synthesizes her multi-cultural identity through spontaneous art making. With her exposure to several cultures and languages, and understanding that the borders dividing us are mere constructs, she manifests nature’s universal majesty in her work, rather than creating images of any particular culture.

Shoro explains, “I was born in Ithaca to Pakistani parents, Naem and Farida Mirza. My father was a hotelier and his job transferred him from one intercontinental hotel to another. I grew up living in hotels the first 13 years of my life — an interesting and deeply moving journey.”

Discussing the influence of her architect husband, Khurram, Shoro says, “He was my best friend in high school in Karachi. I was inspired by his smile and encouraging and supportive nature. He and I would work in the art studio for hours. He created three-dimensional black and white drawings, and I created two-dimensional paintings in color. My connection of art to architecture began when we started our careers together.”

Shoro’s higher education years were as multifaceted as her childhood. “In 1984, while living in Southern California, I attended Cal State Long Beach and El Camino College in Torrance. Then I got married and transferred with my husband to Iowa State University, where I completed my BFA in graphic design and fine arts. I was in the honors programs and received grants to create new bodies of work, including ‘Riding theWaves’ of mixed media paintings.”

(Courtesy of the artist)

“When I graduated in 1991, my daughter Anushe was 9 months old, and we were expecting our son Jibraan. Soon after, we moved to Karachi, where I worked on freelance illustration and graphic design for multinational projects, and exhibited my work in solo and group shows. I had my first solo exhibition in 1993 at Pakistan American Cultural Center, inaugurated by the counsel general of the U.S. in Pakistan.” (Jibraan was born there in 1991, and the couple’s daughter Elahe was born there in 1995.)”

“We moved back to Southern California in 1999, settling in Irvine,” Shoro continues. “I taught art at the Irvine Fine Arts Center, Irvine Valley and Saddleback Colleges. As I love both teaching and creating art, I pursued graduate studies in drawing, painting, printmaking and multimedia techniques at Cal State Fullerton, receiving my MFA there in 2006.”

“Since 1991, my career has progressed from one body of work to the next. Key events include having my work shown at Marion Meyer Fine Art, creating my MFA show in 2005, mounting my exhibitions, ‘Spatial Identity Series’ at Soka University in 2007, and my mother-daughter show, ‘Essence of Being,’ in collaboration with my daughter Anushe’s photography, also at Soka in 2016.”

Shoro also teaches painting, color and design at Orange Coast College, and art history and appreciation at Coastline College. Drawing on her own experiences as an art student, she explains, “I have gained tremendous support from my teachers and professors. They guided, mentored and inspired me to dream and think outside of the box for limitless growth. As they helped me gain confidence as a practicing fine artist, my goal today is to inspire my students to dream, create and make their mark in this beautiful world.

Shoro’s appreciation for her many life experiences and desire to give back are reflected in her relationship with her daughter Anushe, a photographer and poet. The following poem by Anushe extols that relationship; “Each moment / I live with her / reminds me of being / With her warm smile / She cradles me / and teaches me / living is loving / She ignites hearts  / my Sol / I am / Blooming.”

“Spring Breeze” (Courtesy of the artist)

Shoro has won many awards for her artwork, has exhibited in galleries throughout Southern California and in Iowa and Pakistan, and in the Torrance Art Museum, San Diego Art Museum and Pacific Asia Museum.

Her current exhibition, “Earth, Air, Fire & Water,” is at Soka University’s Founders Hall Art Gallery, running through August 31.

Shoro writes about this show, “My love for nature has led me to live in the moment and thus be aware of my inner being and emotion. My emotions respond to the elements: earth, air, fire and water, which are themes prominent to my work. This body of work in particular celebrates my emotional relationship with nature and it is through these elements that I am able to unfold my inner being.”

Join Natasha Shoro and her daughter, Anushe, in Soka University’s Founders Hall Art Gallery from 4:30-6 p.m. on the following dates for a discussion of the exhibition and their book, The Essence of Being, along with mindful meditation:

  • Riding the Waves & Fluidity of the Floating Mind on Thursday, June 13; 
  • Grounding Awareness, Thursday, July 11; 
  • Finding your Inner Flame, Thursday, August 29.