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Nasreen Mohamedi

Indian Modern Artist
Born 1937, Karachi, India (now in Pakistan)
Died 1990, Khim, India
Lived and worked in Mumbai and Baroda, India

Nasreen Mohamedi is a minimalist who followed the tradition of the non representational aesthetics. Her oeuvre mainly comprises of line drawings executed in graphite and ink as well as black and white photography. Her works draws inspiration from the principles of Islamic art and architecture as well as Eastern mysticism.

Education

1963

Monsieur Guillard's Atelier, Paris

1957

St. Martins School of Art, London

 

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LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Nasreen Mohamedi

She was committed to abstraction as a means of artistic articulation

Nasreen Mohamedi’s work follows the tradition of non-representational aesthetics. Her graphite as well as ink and pencil drawings renounce figures, objects and narrations. In her early phase in the 1960s, Mohamedi experimentedwith figures, landscapes and collages before arriving at a non-representational aesthetic under the mentorship of the Bombay Progressive artist V.S Gaitonde. In the end, her lines came to be characterised by certain airiness, ethereality and delicacy that was stupendous. Even Mohamedi’s black and white photographs are about the physical act of experiencing spaces like ocean swells after a storm, threads pulled tight on a loom etc.

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, 1960s, watercolour and charcoal on paper, 27.3 x 19.5”

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled XVIII, 1981, black and white photograph, 9 x 11.4”

The artist experimented with figurative drawings in her early phase. Her later phase saw the maturing of her technique where the lines were so exquisite that she no longer needed to apply ink.

Nasreen Mohamedi was at the forefront of creating minimalist art in India

Mohamedi’s small scale drawings and photographs combined minimalist and conceptual strategies to create a distinct vocabulary of abstract expressionism. The use of sparse lines, an economy of form and a monochrome palette gives her work a prolific and enigmatic thrust. Her drawings are made up of layered, perspectival, grid-like planes and her monochrome works reverse expectations with black being bright and eloquent, and white being opaque and silent.

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, ink on paper, 19.5 x 27"

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, ink on paper, 19.5 x 27"

Shows an adherence to Zen aesthetics and draws inspiration from Islamic art and architecture

The clean forms present in Mohamedi’s form heavily borrow from the principles of Islamic art and architecture while the tension between void and volume that her work evokes owes more to Eastern mysticism. Nasreen also moved from sensible forms to intelligible forms. As art historian Roobina Karode writes, “She distilled the mundane and the everyday to a higher state of consciousness.”

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, 1980s, ink on paper, 20 x 28”

An exploration of her own aesthetics than reflect the chaos and colour of her contemporary India

The artist’s refusal to date most of her works makes it difficult to assign her works a national or a personal chronology. It is therefore not easy to situate Mohamedi’s work within the framework of politically motivated artwork. Her ink and pencil drawings as well as photographs seem more like an exploration of space and essence of line and form rather than reflective of contemporary political events.

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled5.1 x 3"

Works show a keen affection for textiles as well as technology

Several of Mohamedi’s line drawings recall the smudgy patterns of a hand-woven cloth and the organic quality of weaving. In Untitled, 1970, the delicate and thin criss-crossed lines recreate the texture of a cloth being spun. Of an early drawing of a lady with her back to us,Karode remarks that the folds of her red-edged sari underscore Mohamedi’s affection for textiles. As a metropolitan person, Nasreen was attracted towards technology and industrial production, and was comfortable with camera and architectural drawings.

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, 1970s, ink and graphite on paper, 18.7 x 18.7” 

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, 1960s, watercolour on paper, 7.5 x 7.5”

Many of Mohamedi’s work recall the texture of hand-woven cloth. Nasreen Mohamedi’s rendition of the sari through the colour and brushstrokes brings attention to the warp and woof the fabric.

Bibliography