On returning to India in the early 1960s after studying in London and Paris, Nasreen broke away from the milieu of representational art pervasive in post independence India and carved out a unique space for herself at the crest of Indian modernism. Distilling her perceptions to their essence, her means to the essential, un-tethered she floated, above and away from any categorization. Extracting the structure within nature and unleashing the poetry residing within structure, Mohamedi strove to create a unity through form between the outside and the inside. The waves in the sea, the sand under the waves, the sun over the sea, in Mohamedi’s drawings they are all on a single plane, interconnected, and susceptible to the gentle variance of the viewer’s perception.
Mohamedi, employing pen and pencil, transformed sheets of paper into a tour de force. Remarkably executed over three decades ago in an environment where narrative and figurative art was the rule, Mohamedi’s clarity of pursuit and resolve is matched only by the taut tensile energy resonating through the lines. Dismantling the rigidity of the grid, she infuses them with a dynamic rhythm that at times soars, dives, expands, and collapses. Like the footsteps of sunlight through a courtyard or wind sweeping over water, they are abstract in form but not in experience. Her drawings suggest the magnanimous yet simple phenomenon so truly that they infuse an awe-inspiring chill as to the immensity of our experience and the poverty of means used to elicit it.
“There will never be anyone like Nasreen again in the Indian art world. There will be geniuses and transgressive rebels, but none so noble.”
Geeta Kapur in “Requiem to a friend”
Nasreen Mohamedi had a parallel practice in Photography, though rarely exhibited in her lifetime her commitment to the medium has been revealing with surprises and wonder since the first exhibition devoted to her photographs at Talwar, NY in 2003. Employing the medium, Mohamedi distilled the structure and order around her to an essence, of form. The Photographs are sited in simple encounters of the tangible, pared down to light and dark, seeming to reveal universal truths beyond the logical. Intensely personal, and as controlled as the gaze of the artist, they reach outside the self, to perceive and connect.
Mohamedi has been the subject of solo exhibitions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET Breuer), New York (2016); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain (2015); Tate, Liverpool, UK (2014); Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, India (2013) and The Drawing Center, New York (2005).
Mohamedi’s works have also been on view at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, NY; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia; Documenta XII, Kassel, Germany; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Harvard University Art Museum, Cambridge, MA; Institute of Arab and Islamic Art, NY; Fotomuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, MO; and Whitechapel Gallery, London.