Mario D’Souza on Nasreen Mohamedi
Nasreen Mohamedi by no means exhibited her pictures throughout her lifetime. “Autobiography of a Line,” curated by Sasha Altaf, was one of many largest posthumous showings of her photographic works since her dying in 1990, together with just a few prints and paper cutouts. Her curiosity in images could have emerged from her household’s photographic-equipment enterprise in Bahrain. Whether or not her use of the digicam was an informal by-product of her travels or a self-conscious challenge stays unknown. Mohamedi might nicely have made these photos as research for the ink-and-graphite works on paper for which she grew to become finest identified. Her black-and-white or typically sepia-tone photos are intimate, tender research of landscapes, objects, and structure. Tightly framed, they largely summary the id of their topics, leaving mere strains and shapes, types and shadows. However their sensitivity to texture and to the processes of creation imbues them with symbolism and associations.
Stretching throughout the central wall of the gallery have been untitled and largely undated classic prints. In a single undated picture from a collection of weaving-loom research, Mohamedi zooms right into a weave in progress. She concentrates on its texture and occasional anomalies, resembling a darkish geometric glitch that disrupts the uniform aircraft of the warp and weft. The artist attracts a visible roughness out of her topic’s mushy materiality. Such refined juxtapositions usually emerge in Mohamedi’s stark but usually delicate photos.
In Mohamedi’s work, the road represents acceptance of each order and chaos. Born in Karachi, in what’s now Pakistan, in 1937, she was raised in post-partition Bombay and as an grownup witnessed the Sino-Indian Battle of 1962 and the Indo-Pakistani Wars of 1965 and 1971. Her strains can be learn as borders, an interpretation bolstered by the frequent point out of battle in her journals. However her imagery additionally evokes nature and its processes, evident in research of shorelines from round 1970. In a single we see ridged patterns on sand shaped by waves, and in one other we see a detailed, mildly blurry picture of what could possibly be balls of sand, like these produced by bubbler crabs.
Mohamedi’s experiments with image-development methods and printmaking lengthen our understanding of her follow. She was drawn to symmetry, rhythm, and capturing her topics on the proper time of day. In a single picture, angular shadows of what appear like terra-cotta roof tiles kind a wavelike sample. Repetition was a mainstay of her meticulous drawing follow, and her pictures present the identical eye for reiterated preparations of shapes, planes, and tonal shifts.
A number of motifs, such because the obtuse angle, repeat in her works. One encountered it in a display screen print after which once more in a triptych as a cutout on black paper. The shape recollects Mohamedi’s pictures of roads: Zebra crossings and lane markers stand out starkly towards the worn-out, patched, and cracked lanes. Mohamedi’s pictures evince a modernist impulse of their embrace and typically, one would possibly say, extraction of geometry from the postindependence Indian metropolis and its types of growth and order. No folks enter the body—not even her personal shadow. Whereas her propensity for close-up views partly accounts for this, she additionally appeared to consciously seize locations at instances after they have been abandoned.
A curious work was held on the verso of a freestanding wall: an etching with blind embossing and debossing. Three rhomboid shapes together with an incomplete fourth have been embossed on its floor. There stays one thing profoundly opaque concerning the intentions behind such works. Some are dense and layered, others sparse, and a few, like this one, even appear unfinished. Nonetheless, Mohamedi maintained a constancy to the road even in its absence—a dedication to the expertise of steadiness by types.