Nur Shojai is a Vancouver-based artist, illustrator, and facilitator. She works primarily in oil and watercolour, and currently concentrates on figurative and portraiture work that speak to the themes of human nature and spiritual journey. Outside of her individual studio practice she is developing and facilitating community-engaged art projects, with extensive experience with youth and young teens. She also serves on the team for the Centre for Human Progress (Non-profit).
Behind each portrait is a personal story. The characters are real people with whom I have connected, and the portraits often reflect and hint at the experiences that we shared. While working with models, I see them as co-creators bringing their unique stories, spiritual qualities and energy to my paintings.
For each portrait I am seeking to capture a particular spirit and emotion—a familiar feeling or energy—which the viewer can connect with regardless of individual stories or physical identities of race, gender, and age. The stories of our lives have billions of unique variations but the energetic essence and core emotions that we experience as humans are universal. This awareness brings us closer to each other and builds understanding and compassion, reducing the illusion of “otherness.”
Nur was born in Haifa, Israel, to parents of Persian origin. She grew up witnessing many ways of life, living in Canada and the United States, and many years in Colombia and Bolivia. Her formative years spent in Latin America infused her spirit with passion, intensity, color and rhythm. From a young age her three loves were art, animals, and dance.
By the time Nur was graduating from high school, she had equal interest in both sciences and arts, and a desire to contribute to the betterment of the world led her to study environmental science and international relations, graduating with a double major from the University of British Columbia in 2012. After a few years of working in corporate and non-profit settings Nur offered a year of service in her local community of Vancouver, BC, contributing to the community-building efforts of the Baha’i community. She dedicated her time to programs for the empowerment of children and youth and a vision of social transformation. During this time she felt the calling of art, pulling her back to the passions she had had as a younger youth herself. She committed to becoming an artist, took ownership of her own education, and started on her journey of learning and pursuing excellence.
Nur completed a 6-month Artist Residency with ArtQuake Society in Vancouver, creating a body of work on the theme of Democracy, in anticipation of the 2015 Canadian Federal Election. As part of this residency she also designed and executed a collective youth mural project. She then travelled with her husband to London, UK, where she apprenticed for award-winning realist artist Michele Del Campo, working full-time in his studio and learning the craft from a master. She has also studied under Seattle-based artist Wyatt Landis and NYC-based painter Alonsa Guevara.