Nasreen Mohamedi

Nasreen Mohamedi (1937 – 1990) was born in Karachi in pre-Partition India, to a progressive Suleimani Bohra family. Mohamedi was one of 8 siblings. In 1944, after Mohamedi’s mother passed away, her father moved the family to Mumbai. She studied at St. Joseph’s Convent, Bandra. At age 17, Mohamedi went to the Saint Martin’s School of Art in London for a Diploma in design. From 1957-58, Mohamedi lived in Bahrain where her father had a flourishing business, Ashraf’s, which traded in Japanese photography equipment.

Between 1959 -1961, Mohamedi held a studio space at the Bhulabhai Institute where she was acquainted with many of Mumbai’s leading artists. In 1961, Mohamedi had her first exhibition at Bal Chhabda’s ‘Gallery 59’ situated in Bhulabhai Institute. She was awarded a French Government scholarship to Paris to study at Monsieur Guillard’s private atelier from 1961-63.

In 1970, Mohamedi moved to Nizamuddin East in Delhi. In 1972, she joined the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda, as a teacher for drawing. Mohamedi continued to live and teach in Baroda till 1988, after which she returned to Mumbai. She passed away in Kihim, Alibaug on 14th May 1990 after a long battle with Huntington’s Chorea.

In the absence of exact dates and titles, Mohamedi’s works are usually categorised into periods that mark shifts in her practice. Her referential sketches of nature from the mid- 1950s- early 1960s; then a phase where the image is stripped of recognizable references from mid-1960s – early 70s including the gridtemplate works; followed by the period of her unique pen and ink line works for which she is most known for.

During her lifetime, Mohamedi held several exhibitions of her work: at Gallery 59 (1961), Gallery Chemould (1963); British Council, Bahrain (1966, 1969); Taj Art Gallery (1968); Lalit Kala Academi (1970, 1977); Kunika Chemould, Delhi (1971-72); Third Triennale in Nasreen Mohamedi Courtesy: Sikander & Hydari Family archives New Delhi (1975); Jehangir Art Gallery (1974, 1977, 1989); Black Partridge, Delhi (1976); Shridharani Art Gallery, Delhi (1981); Urja Art Gallery, Baroda (1982); Prithvi Art Gallery, Mumbai (1982); Festival of India, London (1982); Indian Artists in France, Paris (1985); Art Heritage Gallery, Delhi (1987). She was awarded the Lalit Kala National Award in Drawing in 1976.

After Mohamedi’s death, her first retrospective was organised by her family and friends at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai. In recent times, her works have gained word-wide recognition and major retrospectives have been held at The Drawing Center, New York (2005); Office for Contemporary Art, Norway (2009); Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi (2013); Tate, Liverpool (2014); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2015); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2016). Her works were shown at ‘Drawing Space: Contemporary Indian Drawing’ (Institute of International Visual Arts, London, 2000) and Documenta XII (Kassel, 2007).