Tell us a bit about educational background and how you’ve developed your art career so far?
I am a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries and of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and completed my B.Sc. Honors in Actuarial Science and Statistics from the University of Western Ontario. I am a self-taught oil painter and my only formal education in fine art was in high school.
I did my first oil painting three and a half years ago; each subsequent painting was a leap in technique, but my voice has always been unique and has led me to produce original never done before work. Via social media and word of mouth, the paintings started getting collected by art enthusiasts around the world, followed up by publications in lifestyle magazines, professional actuarial journals and podcasts. We recently presented a solo booth exhibit of 9 large scale paintings in New York City and have been showered with interest from Chelsea art galleries, fashion houses and private collectors.
Describe your dream project?
My dreams are way too big to summarize in this interview, and I do use dreamlike surrealistic visuals to compose my works. However, to answer your question, a dream project would be one in which my stance on secular oneness of humanity without the divide of culture, religion, and prejudices, allyship towards women’s empowerment and de-stigmatization of mental health illnesses is most amplified. All while using a portion of proceeds from the art career to donate to charitable causes close to my heart.
You know, I want to change the world, by literally painting a picture of a born tolerant Muslim boy’s immigration to North America and to show my peers in the West that people of my skin colour are not closed-minded terrorists. On the other hand, I also want to breakdown the preconceived ideology and resentment against the West that exists in the East.
Do your other interests influence your art?
Absolutely! Dance, fashion, film, horticulture, gastronomy. They all play an important role in the imagery used in the works.
Describe the best piece of art you’ve created?
To me all my works are special, and I go through a grieving process to let any one of them go. I think my top favourites, in no particular order, are the Boxed Golden Temple, Boxed Sagrada Familia, Muskokan Dream, the Lotus Temple, Mohatta, Bordeaux, Milan, Mardi Gras Sax Fantasy, Flowerin’ Audrey and Flowerin’ Riri – 2015 Met Gala. The collection can be viewed on our website www.1haris1.com.
Tell us about your techniques for overcoming creative blocks?
Yoga, strength training and my day career as an actuary. Trust me, the problem is not creative blocks on the contrary it is choosing between the countless ideas that I have written and sent to myself via email to serve as a repository. I just fear that I will not have enough days in this lifetime to execute all the dreamy compositions in my mind and the ones sitting in the inbox.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right at this moment answering your questions ha ha. Jokes aside, post the New York show, with the help of my Colombian art advisor, spouse and sister managers, we are evaluating the best gallery and commission offers to advance the art career. We are also working on producing our giclées for charity.
I have a very hectic travelling schedule, visiting 14 cities in the next two months, so I will pick up the paintbrush again in June. I am toiling with either to produce my Flowerin’ Princess Diana – Revenge Dress, Flowerin’ Jackie Kennedy, or starting a new series which, I have been meaning to do for a while, titled Cappadocia Giverny Lotus Ponds. In this new series I would compare, contrast and make political statements on the Muslim cultures in Turkiye with more “liberal” or should I say bigoted ones of France. The imagery would be of the Cappadocia mountains set in Monet’s Giverny ponds with hot air balloons floating about.
How do you stay connected and up to date with the art world?
By attending major art fairs such as Basel, Scope, Context, Untitled, Nada in Miami, Frieze and the Armory show in NYC, and wanting to add Venice Biennale and Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain in Paris to the list.
I also have well-established art advisors, curators, collectors and board members of the financial world art committees in my personal network who all keep me informed. Lastly, social media and attending local art shows and museum exhibits also add to keeping up with the Art-dashians.
What is the biggest challenge of being an artist?
I am very lucky that I have a day career that allows me complete financial freedom to express myself on my terms and be selective with gallerists and other opportunities. The truth of the matter is that art is a business and the middle men/women/them, the career makers/breakers, have a huge financial interest in an artist’s trajectory. Thus, I think for me the biggest challenge is that I am very aware of the financial implication of contracts, and to be able to reason out the different compensation structures the career makers offer.
I guess that it is much better than being financially manipulated/restricted by all the noise that exists out there in the art world. What I am trying to say, is that the biggest challenge for any artist is to ensure the bills are paid and the work is not influenced by compromise.
What Do You Want Your Artwork to Stand for?
I described that in my dream project above!
Any advice for all the aspiring artists?
Keep on going. Find your voice by what motivates you, what makes you angry, what you want to change about the world and then paint about that.
Never compare your work to anyone else’s because art is so subjective that even a painting with one stroke can mean so much more to a collector than a work with 500 hrs spent in production.
A higher proportion of disappointments will come than with any other career, but always remember, when bridges fall, stock markets plunge and medicines stop working, art is the only healer.