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The "Cartographic Dreams" of Artist and SVA Alumnus Nadia Haji Omar

New York's Jerry Saltz wrote that Omar's canvases "visually buzz like a hummingbird."

The canvases of Nadia Haji Omar's (MFA 2014 Fine Arts) are bright and complex, and enhanced by her experimentation with dyes, inks and acrylics. Looking at the works for her second solo show at Kristen Lorello Gallery in Manhattan, on view through Friday, May 25, one cannot help but try to decipher their patterns or visual language, not to mention their inspiration.

The exhibition, titled "Ellipsis," has won positive reviews over its two-month run. New York's Jerry Saltz wrote that Omar's canvases "visually buzz like a hummingbird," while Hyperallergic's John Yau wrote that her works, which reference linguistic mark-making from a variety of cultures, are "cartographic dreams" that explore "possibilities of allusion that the mainstream art establishment has yet to truly recognize."

Omar currently lives and works in Warren, a small town in Rhode Island not far from Providence's thriving arts scene. She moved there from New York City in 2016 with her boyfriend, who is also an artist and now an instructor at the Rhode Island School of Design. The relocation was, in part, inspired by a desire to be away from the city’s grind and closer to nature. But, she admits, "I'm still not fully committed to not being in New York. It’s as if I'm treating my time in Rhode Island like a residency."

As with a residency, Omar has made the most of her time in Warren thus far. "There is less of the frantic energy and pace [here] as in New York. And a special combination of a slower pace, space and time to create, thus, the possibility to engage on a deeper level." Freed of New York City's ever-climbing cost of living, she has dedicated herself to painting full time.

Lately, in addition to finishing the works for her current show, she created a large-scale work for Providence College's annual mural commission, "On the Wall." Inspired in part by the art and poetry accumulated over many centuries on the walls of Sigiriya, an ancient fortress in central Sri Lanka, Omar’s multi-panel piece, Aa, is on view through July in the campus’s Reilly Gallery.

A version of this article appears in the spring 2018 issue of the Visual Arts Journal.

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