Nasreen Mohamedi: Waiting Is a Part of Intense Living

Photograph by Nasreen Mohamedi, 1967

“A secularized Shiite Muslim of part-Arab ancestry, [Nasreen Mohamedi] was born in Karachi but grew up in Bombay (as it was then called). At seventeen, she enrolled in a London art school, and studied in Paris before returning to Mumbai to work with some of India’s first Modernists.

Her lifelong interest in abstraction thus combined immemorial Islamic tradition with influences from twentieth-century Europe and distinctively Indian ways of life: she drew and painted while sitting cross-legged on a low stool, her work spread flat before her. An enthusiastic traveler, she spent a lifetime searching for austerity in life and in what she created. After a broken engagement broke her heart, she sought out solitude, spoke sparingly, and struggled to strip her art to its essentials. Early on, she abandoned color for black and white, moving from watercolor to graphite and ink. Throughout her life, she kept a series of diaries on lined paper, blacking out entries that no longer pleased her with geometric precision. Many of these pages are on display, with her own notes in English and Urdu.”

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