Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts, Altinho, Panjim, previewed works by Nasreen Mohamedi, (1937-1990) on October 14, 2022. Considered among the modern artists of the 20th century, and known for her line-based drawings, Nasreen has been the subject of remarkable revitalisation in international critical circles, and has received popular acclaim over the last decade.
Her early works include canvases filled with a realistic abstract art, inspired by nature. The mediumistic compositions compile linear drawings on square sheet of paper using pencil, pen and ink.
Fine lines of differing lengths and sizes, traced at various angles and pressures, involving diagonal sharp angles, textural accretions, fill the entire page like a seismograph on which sand patterns and ripples of the sea are charted.
Nasreen’s style and medium changed over time from the late 1950s to the 1980s. She had a short fascination with watercolours and oil, but soon moved to pencil and graphite. Patterns and shapes have dominated her canvas, and she is said to be the first woman abstract artist of India, whose vision was as infinite as her line drawings.
From the 1980s, her expressionist style was soulful, weaving narrative of modernity through abstract geometric and architectural shapes emerging from triangles, diagonal lines and circles against the grain of contemporary trends of context within Indian art history.
Figurative and political forms of modernism took root when she taught fine art as Faculty at the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda (Gujarat) in 1972. During the last decade of her life, her motor functions gradually deteriorated with a rare neurological disorder called Huntington's Chorea (similar to Parkinson's), but retained control of her drawing hand, and continued teaching until her death at age 53.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
One of eight children, born in Karachi, in the elite Tyabji, Suleymani Bohra family, her family moved to Mumbai in 1944. She attended St Martin's School of the Arts, in London, from 1954 to 1957, and studied on a scholarship in Paris from 1961-1963.
She worked at a printmaking atelier, and on her return to India, joined the Bhulabhai Institute for Arts in Mumbai, and had immediate proximity to artists M F Husain, Bhupen Khakhar, Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh and Arpita Singh. She met abstractionist Jeram Patel, who become her friend and colleague, while Gaitonde served as her mentor.
She admired and was influenced by artists Kasimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky.
She was influenced by the deserts, Islamic architecture, and Zen aesthetics, during her frequent travels to Kuwait, Bahrain, Japan, USA, Turkey and Iran, and got interested in photography in the 1950s and early 1960s. They were never exhibited during her lifetime.
Photos from the 1980s are abstracted to the point of becoming non-representational. With no narratives, her art brings the intangible and the non-representable into existence.
Between 1961 and 2020, Nasreen had solo exhibitions in Mumbai, New York, Madrid, Liverpool, Switzerland and Norway.
Nasreen’s notebooks, photographs and diaries, discovered after her death, provide a deeper understanding of her solitary universe. In 1970, at a critical point in her career, she wrote, “Again, I am reassured by Kandinsky – the need to take from an outer environment and bring it an inner necessity.”
Her works are undated, and untitled. Her friend and art historian, Geeta Kapur, has placed them between the ‘artistic and the real’, stating that they create “an allegory of (dis)placement between the subject and the object.”
The exhibition opened in Goa (which she visited frequently) and travels to Indian cities where she’s lived and worked. It has been loaned to 4 museum exhibitions in 11 cities across Europe, N America, and shows a shift between the early play of the line and the later diagrammatic compositions.
Masanori Fukuoka, owner of Glenbarra Art Museum, Japan, who has been collecting contemporary Indian art since 1990, attended the preview, and opines, “Nasreen is one of the artists at the core of the Glenbarra Art Museum. I wait to see how the works are transformed each time, in relationship with the same and with each other. I hope to further my own desire to better understand this artist’s unique body of work.”
The exhibition will be on show at Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts, Altinho, Panjim, from October 14, 2022 to November 22, 2022