Three decades after her passing, the city gets a retrospective of Karachi-based modern artist Nasreen Mohamedi’s works
An archival photo of artist Nasreen Mohamedi, whose work has gained worldwide prominence in the last 15 years
While Nasreen Mohamedi’s works have gained worldwide prominence in the past 15 years or so, there hasn’t been a major exhibition of her works in Mumbai since the retrospective organised by her family in 1991, a year after her passing,” recalls Puja Vaish, Director of Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation.
As curator of an ongoing retrospective of Mohamedi’s works and archival material—many exhibited for the first time—Vaish notes that several young artists and people have never seen anything by the artist best known for line-based drawings. “Keeping in mind the museum’s unmatched visibility and vast audience, we hope to bring this seminal artist’s practice into public consciousness,” she says.
The Vastness, Again & Again gives us a peek into the Karachi-born artist’s creative process, and her preoccupations with the minimal and monochromatic. It showcases her early works from the 1950s, including rare portrait studies, nature studies that bear the flourish of Japanese ink works and calligraphy, lithographs and etchings, and canvases and collages from the ’60s; along with the now-iconic tempered architectural-like line works from the later part of her career. Pages from her diary, recording what she imbibed from surroundings, nature, landscape, architecture and design, are also on display.
An ongoing retrospective titled The Vastness, Again & Again showcases Karachi-born Nasreen Mohamedi’s early works, including rare portrait studies, nature studies that bear the flourish of Japanese ink works and calligraphy, lithographs and etchings, and canvases and collages. ALL PICS COURTESY/JEHANGIR NICHOLSON ART FOUNDATION
A section holds studio ephemera, as well as photographs by her, which many consider the earliest of her foray into the art. “Somehow, with the recent international fame Nasreen has garnered,” says Vaish, “she comes across as a tragic, neglected and lonely figure. This also posed a challenge in how to plan the exhibition. However, at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, it’s evident that she was an integral part of the artist fraternity, and the love and respect that she had amongst her many friends, artist colleagues and students is immediately noticeable.”
“Every student is familiar with her due to the annual Nasreen Mohamedi Scholarship Award for painting, and through her teachings for several years at the Faculty of Fine Arts, her aesthetics have had a lasting impact on generations of students,” adds Vaish. It was in Baroda that Mohamedi produced her line works—she trained her hand to draft lines with technical tools despite the tremors that physically overtook her due to a degenerative neuro-muscular condition.
The exhibition also features archival material and photographs with her colleagues, including visual artist Nilima Sheikh, painter Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, painter and graphic artist Jaidev Thakore, Padma Shri artist Bhupen Khakhar; letters to colleagues and students, a cover of Vrishchik (a magazine by Gulam Mohammed Sheikh and Bhupen Khakhar that features her linocut work), several early newspaper write-ups and invitations to her first shows in the ’60s.
“The exhibition aims to conjure Nasreen’s legacy through conversations within her own works as well as through the context of her peers and the art developments during her time,” Vaish points out. “The archival sections as well as some of the works featured by other artists have been included through valuable insights gained by speaking with people who knew Mohamedi. These include her contemporaries such as Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Nilima Sheikh, Nalini Malani, Jyoti Bhatt, and students including Vasudevan Akkitham and BV Suresh, as well as members of her family.”
WHAT: Nasreen Mohamedi: The Vastness, Again & Again
WHEN: Till April 30 from 10.15 AM to 6 PM
WHERE: Jehangir Nicholson Gallery, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya