Open and inquisitive, Nasreen Mohamedi embarked on an intimate, personal artistic practice without precedent in Indiana art dominant during her career. Her simple works are quiet, reflective, and sensitive but absolutely resolute; and this focused quality is what characterizes her oeuvre. Mohamedi’s centered vision allowed her to develop a distinctive art practice, which would later mark a pinnacle for modernism in Indian art, becoming essential for progression.
Her body of work possesses a totality of perspective, unity of thought and fluid merging of action. The purpose is absolute, surrendering extravagance, conflict, and contrast for order, direction, and cohesion. No matter what media Mohamedi chose, ink on paper or through lens on film, her controlled gaze perceived all connections and cemented what seemed separate into a singular, co-dependent whole. She did this by breaking down structures to establish order with the essence of form. This process is constant and continuous; with time losing its meaning and space becoming infinite.
The Photographs series are not abstract but neither are they representational, citing instead encounters of tangible-ness. Stripped of color leaving only dark and light, they seem to transcend into something greater than the apparent structures on the surface. They reach out to the viewer, perceiving you as the artist once perceived their convergence of nature and individual. This series reminds me of Agnes Martin and other minimalists, but though Mohamedi knew of the techniques of her contemporaries, grouping her work within the context of a European movement, such as minimalism, would be a mistake for omitting an understanding of her vision of order, direction, and unity to the art evolution in India.
The Series drawings, rendered simply on graph paper, defy their diminutive size with a monumental presence. Their simplicity, differing only slightly by stroke of the line, connects them all, implying tangible, embryonic systems, that posses a delicate and continuos life of their own. The most personal of all her works is her Diaries (1968- 1988). Again, they are small, palm-sized, but by encapsulating the experience of two decades they underscore the intensity and strength of Mohamedi’s commitment to her cynosure. Words and forms, inspirations and struggles life and art, all co-exist on the pages as a singular unite, one unable to exist without the other.
Nasreen Mohamedi was born in 1937 in Karachi, India and moved with her family to Bombay in 1944. She studied at St. Martins School of Art in London from 1954 to 57 and later in Paris from 1961-63 under a French Government scholarship. On her return to India she joined the Bhulabhai Desai Institute where she came into close contact with artists Tyeb Mehta, M.F. Husain and V.S. Gaitonde. And in 1964 she accompanied M.F. Husain to Rajasthan as a photographer while he worked on his film ‘Through the eyes of the painter’. Mohamedi joined the M.S. University, Faculty of Fine Arts, in Baroda in 1972 and continued to teach and work there until 1988. Sadly, Nasreen Mohamedi passed away in 1990 in Kihim, India.
To honor her oeuvre the Talwar Gallery in New York is hosting an exhibition titled Becoming One of her photographs, drawings, and diaries from September 13, 2013 through January 25, 2014, offering a chance for viewers to observe Mohamedi’s focused vision. This exhibit will also include her never before seen works.