Page 1

Th e D ra wing Cent er ' s







]"Cr:I r-r: n.



tr tTVri ii': 2* .l',:i $at$iliI

The DrawingCenter March19- May21,2005

NA S R E E l {


Li nes a m o n g L in e s Essays by GeetaKapur SusetteMin

A studentremembers..... Nosreentoughtus drowing,not only with o pencilor brushbut in the wider from the worldoroundond sensedrowingfrom within our own resources, thot shetoughtthis thot is not surprising from experience "to "educote' And thot is whot is drow out'! therootof the word becouse it wos. Shemodeeochoneof us feelspeciolond believedin our individuol unknownto us.Somehow whichweredormontondcompletely copobilities herfoith ondnuturingtouchedo chordin o lot of us ondchongedthecourse of our lives. -NinaSabnani




I -*n'*



\ 'a ..,

r 4,e.b,.'E* L:!



- 4 +'*

.n * '


\ \


\.t \

col l ec ti on, N ewYor k . and ink on papere, 112x 9 3/4 inches.Pr ivate I 1 ] U n t i t l e d , c. r9 6 8 . Wa te rco lor


Ele g y fo r an U nc tai med B elo v e d : Na sre e n M ohamedi r93T-t9g o GEETA K APUR Desert Bir t h gift:granted to some, a sort in thecradle...the terrible thedesert Andthentherearethosewhoreceived poetry. The desert andbrings themupto andthatcondemns thatisa blessing, a nataldesertion, of curse is the primalscenein whichthe infantwakesto perfect is a lackof origin,a lackof desert birth.' of milk,whichis light...Desert, absence; to theabsence

'i..[T]he of Arabia. strong butsheknewandlovedthedeserts Nasreen wasnotbornin thedesert vital way," Nasreen writes in a tinyway,in a clearand lt makes onedetached ariditv of thedesert. Helene Cixous a nataldesertion, isa lackof origin, a lackof engendering, in herdiary.'The desert to perfectabsence.' says. Theinfantawakens is abouttheself,that througha work,foundedon absence, I wantto propose that Nasreen's questions elided butthattheinsistently andtranscends death, shetouches series of displacements, withina in herwork;thatsheistherefore thosethatofferup meaning abouttheselfareprecisely greatlineage in a waythatnootherIndian artistis;butthatsheisalso of metaphysical abstraction of herkind artistin Indiaat a timewhentherewerefewothers without a tradition, beinga woman negation. andimmense citingthisbenign This is partof a proposition aboutselfhood. evacuated behidden, denied, Thattheselfshould evenwhentheir whose disembodied in particular, selfis,asit were, saints mustbetrueof women transposes the selfthroughthe saint-poet Janabai Thefourteenth-century is embodied. desire poetryof praise andlabor: Jonisweepsthe floor, TheLordcollectsthe dirt, Corriesit uponHisheod, And costsit owoy;

N i sht 1e68 N ovember , , [ ?] N asreen w ri tesi n her di ary:-rsth M ak inga dailyri tu a lo f th e m u n d a n eta s k so f w ashi ngand cl eani ng, Theemptynind

persona. hercall- Receives Remember face,un-gendered artist's fraillimbs, ascetic Remember Nasreen's she Droinit with herbodyandthe stigmata engagement hernarcissistic ingas an unclaimed beloved, gesture, hermasochism anditsreward herreturn, herdeparting to hide.Andalways barely cared So thot it receives thesun of a mirage. Hercontinual tracking andgrace. of absurdity <i l


fh q


Witho flosh;

S ay s t hegr e a ttw e l fth -c e n tU ry s a i n t-p oetA kkamahadevi i noneofhervoconos:-l tw osl i keostreom runninginto the dry bed of o loke, Th e Se lf as Body likeroin pouring on plonts it is simultanework is the self and that I Nasreen's about if say that I amnotspeaking contrarily porchedto sticks. isa mystical triumphin theway negation aswell,for everypassionate ouslyaboutself-negating It woslikethis world'spleosure principle isa refusal of soulin favorof a moreabstract Akimconno, self-naughting, of becoming. ond thewoyto theother, still from the thinkingof self,and the willingof self,as Ananda of mind;it is standing both (quoting Boehme) wouldsay.' Jacob Coomaraswamy wolkingtowordsme.6 precisely whichwastypical in aspects of mindlessness, mademanifest Themindissometimes madness, laughing and sobblng, crossing living in blithe sometimes to be Sheseemed of Nasreen. following a withoutfiguraldevices, withoutverisimilitude, overbutwithoutthe helpof objects, lineof forcethatledto thehorizon. 5

Likeo whitemognolioflower cuppedin ivoryproyer,

Nasreen's of selfoffereditselfup asa cipherrisingfromthesea;drawnfromthe metaphor plenitude, madevisible in theveryprocess it signaled anguish of sublimation. Sublimity canbe readasrepression, Thattooisa formof subjectivity, the a denial of theselfaswellasof theother. asdesire underside of mentaltriumphwherethebodyexceeds theself,wheretheotherpersists despite theother's absence. "(Butisn'tdesire whether ln hislover3Discourse, Roland Barthes says: always thesame, theobject ispresent lsn'ttheobjectalways absent?)"'"The beingI amwaitingfor isnotreal.Likethe or absent? it overandover,starting frommycapacity mother's breast for the infant,'l create andre-create to love, frommyneedfor it':theothercomes herewhereI amwaiting, herewhereI havealready starting created him/her. Andif theotherdoesnotcome,I hallucinate theother:waitingisa delirium."' Nasreen's work,speaking thistime,conceives of the full cycleof self-negating as contrarily lt identifies withthemystical beginning alloveragainwithdesire: body, thefemale body, thebody in pain,the broken body, the bodyin art.Finally, it identifies withthe bodyof the beloved that There is nothing furtherthanseparation; carries thegravity of themortaldream. thereisnothing to theother;andthemeasure of bondage isa measure to holdon to butthelastgripof bondage of strenoth. borrowed from me and keptwasthe translated lovelettersof Oneof the booksNasreen medieval whowascommitted Abelard andHeloise. theFrench scholar andhisbeloved. to a nunpainbeyond nery.Bothlivedthrough carnal loveandcastration, through belief andwhatcanonly poeticrenIn a contemporary be readasthe unwilling surrender to godin theshape of Christ. lives, Heloise writes to Abelard: deringof theirtragic

"lie"where"you"becomes my tronquillityrestson the evening "l havefoundanother" is a mystical modeof speech, a luminous the And floots,still in the quietoir. godhead identified withthe bodyof the and,in an inverted sense, exhausts the other.Nasreen I connowremember our misfortunes narcissism. lt wasthelast beloved, evacuating it of every symbolic truthexcept a deeply embedded withoutregret; wageron theimaginary for it. Nasreen wasEchoto Narcissus; bothwerein andthemorelustrous I connowbeolone, ground There is reflect thevisage in theskyandcatchtheechoon the below. Withoutloneliness;her.Thedrawings in theecho,andtheotheris always, in thefreedom of longing, negated/recovered. Andcon sleepwithoutdreoms,an othering phenomena you ondeventhinkof you Perhaps within logic in its wake. However theotherexists the of andcarries all withoutthepoinof not beingwith

did,herevacuated bodyblanched withthehopeof recall. elidetheencounter, asNasreen possessed hovering view from nowhere Thebody and of a that is a viewfromeverywhere: a kindof phenomenological wonder. Theworldis subsumed theviewbut it produces a heartby I usedto coll you beloved; a giddiness fromunrealized excess. l do so now, sickness, "l amengulfed, I succumb," thusBarthes emblazons hismortaltrust:"Engulfment isa moment Butobsetvethe wordis on imperotive; perhaps, beloved, beloved;be free. of hypnosis...which meto swoonwithoutkillingmyself. Whence, commands thegentleI hovefoundonother. ness I haveno responsibility here, theact(ofdying)is notup to me."" of theabyss: I no longerneedyou.1o gradWeknowthatNasreen's bodywaslosingitsmotorfunctions asof the 1980s, becoming Therewasat the endan oddlysplayed movement of the limbsthat could uallydysfunctional. puppet. perhaps physical I am develop intothedanceof a flying too tempted to takeNasreen's jerkdisobediently, whichmadeherlimbs assomekindof a destinalsign:a fatalsign. lt affliction, play, in cruel woman, in analmost inadwaslikelooking at mortality to seeNasreen, thiselegant vertent of thebody-soul, stubbing, knocking, tapping, hitting, lunging through space-yet display maintaining underthegreatest stress a control of thehand. Barthes delicately, in orderto hidewithout says:"ln orderto suggest, that I am suffering, lying,I shallmakeuseof a cunningpreterition: I shalldividethe economy of my signs....The poweroflanguage:withmylanguagelcandoeverything:evenandespeciallysaynothing. lcan You.



; *'-]. .;:




ffi :i :i:

e w * *

H 15

# F

Iz] Untitted, c. 196/. W.rtercoLofaf.l ;fi( or paper, 8 114 x 8 ri4 inches. Private CoLlection,New York.

do ev er y t hing v ;i th my a n g u a g eb, u l n o t w rth m y body.W hat I hi deby my l anguaqe, my bodyuLters...B nry,,,or y ce, r 'vhat ' th a t ev erit s ay st,he o th er w i l l re c o g n i z e s o m e thi ngrsw ronqv;i th mel ..l V body y i s a stubbornchi l d,my an!l ua ges a ver y c iv iliz edadult . .." ' T hatt his bo d ys h o ud b e a n i n v l s i be p re s ence i n a map of a few i nes s a vi rtuosofeat.Thedraw n nesappearlke a graceand precs on. Indeeda m ost r er not e, idear z e dtra l e c to ry o f th i s s trrc kne b o dy,as i f they rnustevokea compensatory go throughthe strai tgatesof h eavenr ke t o t he ends hec o u l da rc hth e b o w b e fo reth e targetso that the arror' vhead v;ou1d a m y s t r c al a ph a b e to r a n ru s i c an o te . A pr ec is se p e c ua r ty , th e fl i g h t o f a n a n g e lshearng space. Then,n the darkni ghtof the sou, nrherethe el ect edbody pc r s is t sNas , rcen \' v a sc o n te n tto rry o rk w th a p overtyof means. To counterthe spectaclof e ovc and of spi ri tuaar nbltor r , s hewasw ll ng to b re a ka p a rt.Sh ew o u d s i m py survi ve, and l et the cal l graph,thc graphc si gn,speak

Aga inst t he G r ain

resources-through anthropomorphism, its iconographic Modernlndianart continues to be committed to augmenting milieu-Bhupen Thinkof Nasreen's illustrious in herimmediate morphologies. contemporaries metaphoric allusions, elaborate great of the imagination. Arpita All of them succumb exuberantly to the temptation Khakhar, Sheikh, Singh. Gulammohammed intact, whereiconswearthe nimbus of meaning in whichimages areprovocatively enshrined, Theyprivilege a condensation giveoverto a voluptuous Insharpcontrast, Nasreen's aesthetic cleanly circumof painandprofanation. wheresymbols afterlife "Maximum it out. Nasreen wrotein herdiary, andspenta lifeworking outof theminimum,"" ventstheirsubstantive oeuvre. her has honorable of abstract in Indian art. Bombay, city, an tradition It isnotthatshehasnoantecedentscontemporary mentorin theearly1960s. painting mucholderthanNasreen, actedasherIndian V.S.Gaitonde, bothsumptuous andspare. Patel, who much wandering settled downto her longtime friend and colleague Jeram after TheBombay legacy alsoincludes presence for successive a unique, eccentric alsogravitated in theearly1970s, becoming teachin Baroda, to whichNasreen (also, paradoxical generations in a sense, conlf, in Indian milieu, we want to find a single complementary of students. the image, excavation of the negative it shouldfinallybeJeramPatel: because of hispassionate tradictory) artistto Nasreen, he materiality the object inside out in Indian in the 1960s; because turnedthe of whichsignaled a newdirection abstraction (literally, thatseemed to gougeoutthesurface of thepaperl; onwoodandthrough drawings through theuseof a blowtorch paradoxical Patel worked a controlled transbetween hisworkandNasreen's.Jeram out of a complementarity andbecause mounds in hispost-expressionist inkdrawings-digging andthenexploding of actionbetween theeroticandthe macabre "prehistoric" working genitals, work's morphology remains. Nasreen, also his of bones, hair,nails, tools-thatcharacterized Through thevicissitudes of theirfriendship, theyperformed, wasengaged in cleoring thegreotdebns. with inkon paper, negation. theradical taskof creative eachseparately, withherdesire to intentions for Indian art,to theextentthatshecanbesaidto havehadany,rested Nasreen's specific "evacuate" palpitating get heartof the matter. romanticism; to to the core,to the rid Indianart of its overweening (thetexture withanguish is for AlbertCamus'existentialism of a voicesaturated heryouthful sentiment Notwithstanding paradoxes practice in fruitof metaphysical soabundant herart systematically denudes theseductive foundin herdiaries), romantic modernity-Western andIndian alike. goze. representational fromtheartist's Indeed, shedeliberateto disengage ethics Nasreen's aimwasevenmoresevere: aesthetandexploitative aspects of it. FromEastern ly canceled or defied theregime of thegaze, sensing theappropriative point at the of vanishing andtakingtheview of theg/once-fleeting, evanescent, always ics,shetookup theconventions witha sense recalling Christ's imprinton hismantle, or theshadow of a Hiroshima withit.'oFurther, sheworked of shadow: determinedly against thesymbol aswell. theiconwiththeindexical sign,whichisalways victimon thewall.Shereplaced phenomenal Toat leastraise Whatmakes Malevich's andformaltrace. thequestion: Heraimwasto coalesce encounter presence? andalsoan object, anobjective whiteon whitea mysticaldiagram Uto pla n Moder nis m

froma lyrical, spiritual lineages. Hervocabulary comes expressive, Nasreen to two art-historical shouldbeseenasaligned dimension in twentieth-century art, in highModernism-about which, comes alsofromthe utopian source inclinations. Modernist whichprovides themetaphysics andideology to herstrongly (especially fromrevolutionary fromtheSoviet Unionof the abstraction: Emerging socialism First, thelineage of utopian knowthatNasreen Malevich, hadan influence on Nasreen-we admired 1920s), andamongthem,Kazimir theSuprematists, propositions. wasat stakewithhim,andit wasformulated throughgeometrical Malevich. Notnaturebut humandestiny plane, form.Thena chevron, a requirement, intothediagonal asa preferred a triangle, Theflat picture a Cubist develops geometrical Further, standproxyfor a symbolic language. making abstraction cross cometo dominate thevisualvocabulary, privileges primary A reason is in light a clash of elements: thesis/antithesis. synthetic order of interest in color, and dark, an posited. before suchhigherpurposes asthehuman in nature asmerely contingent andthusdispensable Forms areregarded is in favor realm representational images displaced of a self-conmind's aims. Correspondingly, the of owntranscendent "lnthefuturenota future.In 1921, Malevich writes: to an uncharted ceptualizing formalism thatleads theway,asit were, 8-9

[3 j Ac I es MA RTtN, Grdss,1963. Inkon paper,11x 11inches.PrivateCollection.

singlegrounded structure willremain on Earth. Nothing willbefastened or tieddown.Thisis thetruenatureof the unipartof nature, "This verse. Butwhileeachunitisa singular it willsoonmerge withthewhole." iswhatSuprematism means to me-thedawnof anerain whichthenucleus willmoveasa single forceof atomized energy andwillexpand withinnew, orbiting, spatial systems...Today we haveadvanced intoa newfourthdimension of motion. Wehavepulledup ourconsciousness by its rootsfromthe isfreenowto revolve in the infinityof space."'u TheConstructivists, againin the 1920s andin theSoviet Union, alsousedgeometrical means. Theirintenthowever was planof theworldalongwiththeprimacy premise to celebrate a futuristic of theautonomous mentalrealm. Theaesthetic of the Constructivists wasdifferentfromthat of bothlyricalandSuprematist abstraction in that theyofferedno refracted epiphanies. Theyproposed formsof the spiritual accessible andthe symbolic. Energies of the mindseenas geometrical formscameto standfor theenergies of humanpraxis; concrete elements froma hypothetical architecture werefloated and

8 1/4 x 14inches [4] Untitted XlV, c. 7977.Black& whitephotograph,

positioned to givea sense of thedynamic orderof theworld, thoughtheplanar disposition of the formswasstrictly non-illusionistic. Theactof balancing isa measure of cognitive adjustment and in relation In somecases, a matterof environmental equilibrium to the forceof entropy. the proper Constructivists offered actualdes;gns for living, bothin architecture andin thedomain of Andin so far asthisvisualvocabulary worksasa kindof valorized the product. analogy to the object-world, it favorsan activeencounter withthe vlewer-the bodyis a volatile entityposiHere, for perfection tionedamongobJects. then,isa utopian demand thatis materialand dialecproducts, extends to theentirerange of industrral exhibitron design, andarchitecture-one famous 1919-20 model of the examples beingthe design and byVladimirTatlin of theMonument to theThirdlnternational. Nasreen's interest in the utopian wasnot dialectically thought-out, as it is withthe Soviet artists, nordidit flowfromsomeordering system or futuristic blueprint of theworld.Butthere 'l werecertain Nasreen and oddconnections between the 920sSoviet avant-garde. Shewascommittedto abstraction fromthestart;shewasattracted to modern technology; shemadenearly good production: rn industrial a fetishof design. Shewasinterested cars,modernbuildings, r980 water-storage tanks, telegraph apparatuses, theurbanstreet, airplane runways. Herphotographs, functionol )ne doyoll will become ond aboutwhichmorelater, photo forms. withcameras, capture thesematerial Shefeltcomfortable hencegooddesign.Therewill be no woste. precision laboratories, instruments, architectural drawings. Shetraversed a varietyof architecWewill thenunderstand bosics./f wtll toke paved witha sense turalspaces of exactmeasure-the courtyard at Fatehpur Sikriandthecontime. of Bombay, as well as the asphalt highways Europet+1. was crete sidewalks of She a metropolitan Butthenweget theopportunity for pure young worldwide, in the 1950s, pofience.r6person, traveling beginning asa very studentof art,by which 10-11

[5] Untitled, c. 1977. Penciland ink on graph paper,7 x 7 inches.Privatecollection,NewYork.

Theexperience of the by moderntechnology. hadbeenrealized of the Sovietavant-garde timethe futuristicprojections What Nasreen wasbythencommon. andtension, andlight,of transmission of speed extension of thesenses, technological is to giveit overto a in herimagination, whichfigures subliminally of abstraction, doesthenwiththe utopianlanguage lofty senseof design. Late ModernistPoetlcs a fullydeveloped Kandinsky andPaulKleecanbesaidto havegivenabstraction Fromthefirstdecade of thiscenturyVassily Thetwo artistsoffer,eachin hisownway,morof artisticintents. poetics naturalized asthe noblest whereby it becomes of Kleeand in natureitself.Thelyricalapproach phologies of metaphorical transformation the processes that simulate namingof of Klee;Kandinsky's to theactuallanguage Nasreen isdirectly beholden isdearto manyIndianartists. Kandinsky point in Nasreen notes her diary:"Again in her work, In 1970, a transitional on her. at in has a signal effect spiritual art the andbringit an innernecessity."'' needto takefroman outerenvironment by Kandinsky-the I am reassured in London shewentto St.Martin's theageof sixteen, fromtheearly1950s;at art schools Nasreen studiedin European This pickedup the virtuosomannerof postwar in the Schoolof Paris. abstraction Nasreen andthen,aftera gap,to Paris. Tachistes, more conceptual forms. lt also included his expressivity of Mathieu, with tactile flamboyant Georges included the followedthe French trailthroughthe bold marks. Nasreen visual-linguistic who devised distilled suchas HenriMichaux, no ecriture offered. paintings itself subliminal, authorial Later, touch became mid 1960s. the until the of heroil swatches andtintwiththinnedturpentine whichwaswashed visiblemarkings of naturewouldgivetextureto thecanvas, Thebarely grass invisible in the desert throwing shadows pigment, footprints and dry of insect surface a tracery the ed with ochre "ln the midstof thesearidsilences andthenaddsa of textureandform,"shewrites,'' onepicksup a few threads breeze. perfection."" it web it makes to only make a but spidercan self-instruction:"A characteristic



J\*\ : * --\


t I 7tl16x 74 9| 76 inches. [6] Untitted Yll, c. t972. Black& white photograph,

A c ut ein her us eo f l a n g u a g eN, a s re esntre tc h e th d e by-then-fami l i ar K l eel egacyto catchthe A meri can advancei n a bst r acp an asceti cpeer-fi gure peri od:A gnes ti on.S hec am et o s ta n di n d i re c tre l a ti o n s h ito i n the l ate Moderni st Marti n( t hough tl ) s heac t uallyonlys a w Ma rti n ' sw o rk l a tei n h e r o w n career) M odes t houg hh e r w o rk i s ,Ma rti nc a rri e dth e auraof sel f-suffi ci ency, she procl ai med the oracul arnatureof ar t . She c ka c ro s sth e J u d a i cs c ri p tu res madea philos op h itre to the Greeks and P l atoand across A sranthoughtto ZenandTao.Then s he r et ur nedev e ryti m e to c o n te mp o ra ri el isk eAd R ei nhardt, B arnettN ew man,Mark R othko,John C age.C omi ng,as an A m er ic an, f r om t h e mrl i e uo f o n eo f th e o ri g i n asl i tesof A bstractE xpressi oni sm, shespokei n her prosepoemsaboutPlat onic n ot ionsof beaut ya n d fo rm b u t fro m a c o n s p i c uousl poi ntof vi ew .' o egal y i tari an M ar k ingt he s p a c eo f th e s u b l i m eh, e r w o rk i s a form of prayer, utterances spreadi ng overthe surfaceof a l ake f, ield,or ' 1 ..make des er tM . ar t inqu o te sfro m a b i b l i c apl a s s a g: e l eveli n the deserta hi ghw ayfor our God," "and compl emen tits wit h a T aoist hought :" l f w a te ri s s o c l e a r,s o l e v e l/H , o w muchmorethe spi ri tof man?" " A c r os s - r ef e re nto c e a c o n te mp o ra ry a rti s ts uch as A gnesMarti n i l l umi nates N asreen'wsork,especi al lher y h um ilit y bef or enat ur e,he r i n te re sitn th e a n o n y mo ulsa n g uage of geometry. Marti n' sw ork i s not aboutnature,onl ythe exper lence of beingbef or ena tu rel.t m a ye v e nb e o n ti -n o ture, counti ngon w hat i s foreveri n the mi nd.Li keMarti n' s, N asree n's classic is mev olv edgr ad u a l lay n dtra n s fo rm i nth g e s u b stratum of bi omorphiforms c i nto a systemof graphi cmarks. W hati s im por tant is t hat eac ho f th e m w o rk so u t a g e o m e trythat provi des opti calcl ari ty-aparadi gm for ottenti on. sts peopl that e l ookout w i ththei rbackto the wor ld. "" Nas r een c ouldw e l lh a v ej o i n e dAg n e sM a rti ni n sayi ngthat" C l assi ci are T he G r id Thef loorin t he ho u s eo f A g n e sM a rti n a , s i n N a s ren' e shouse,w aspol i shed pri ntsof the barefoot,no i l l usion, only th e s ur f ac e. 72-73

It is worthpursuing the comparison with Martin:Sheworked withsimple foundobjects; shepainted dotsof atmospheric color;shedrewpeople andgrass aslittlerectangles; sheworked outspaces between dropsof rain.Shemadeanairy matrix. in weaving, whichledherto theopenformof thelattice. Herparallel linesandgridsundulate Shewasinterested invisible-"luminous for theshimmer following a pencil alonga stringor measuring tape;andtheyarenearly containers of line,"writeRosalind Krauss andMarcia Tucker.'o Evenwhenshereturned to painting aftera periodof renunciation, it was in theshape lt isasif sheaccepted impotence, humility, stillsubliminal expression of palehardpaintings. emptyrectangles, privileging through JohnCageshemadea bridgeto the minimal/conceptual aesthetic, above silence, andblankness-and painting in systemic all the grid.Shetendedthento be included showsandherworkwasplaced with Frank Stella, So, LeWitt, Robert Ryman, Donald Judd,CarlAndre. "Thegridannounces lquotetwo passages fromRosalind Krauss: amongotherthings, modern art'swillto silence, its "Thephysical qualities hostility of thesurface, wecouldsay,aremapped to literature, to narrative, to discourse." on to the physical dimension of thesamesurface. Andthese two planes-the andtheaesthetic-are demonstrated to bethe aesthetic in thisway,the bottomlineof thegridis a naked anddetermined sameplane: co-extensive, and...coordinate. Considered materialism."" precedents madesoprominent Minimalists hasof course Thegridproper, byAmerican throughthe 1960s and1970s, firstandforemost. in signalmoments of Modernism-in the workof PietMondrian, Mondrian derived a logicfrom with,the structure nature, turningit intoa hypothetical structure of the universe conceived as,or ratherconflated of gains mind. A nonrepresentational image, with nature as the ultimate referent, intelligible coherence only when we the presence, manifested asepiphany or asmaterial is translated intoa linguisacknowledge that phenomenal experience, tic idea. planeastheultimate favors field Bythetimewe cometo lateModernism, Clement Greenberg's theorizing the picture purely into of visionwherein experience nature) is finally translated a optical sensation, an eminently visual form devoid {of reality, meaning. Nasreen's workmaybereadin termsof theselateModernist of anykindof illusionistic or evenlinguistic indicate. manifestations-but notentirely in thosetermseither, aslshall phenomenon Nasreen's reason for adopting enough:so thata natural maybeopened outto reveal thegridis familiar great visible itsinnermatrix; sothatthesubtle sensation thatthedismantling of the structures of nature creates wouldsurfaceof wateror invisible windcurrents fromthe desertplains, face;so thatthe inflected astheseareprojected ontoa graph, pure marked canbecome thought. is inducted intotheidealstructure Thelogicis precisely thatnature asa referent of a gridthatbecalms thevisioninto grid; in thisway,the statesof rest.Considered a structured surface, actslikea supportfor disinterested/undifferentiated it is,at thesametime,a refutation appearance; of thesimulacrum. "Thenewimage Inthe1960s, Nasreen writes: of purerationalism. Pureintellect thathasto beseparated fromemotion...A painandpleasure." Andadds:"Againa difficult statebeyond taskbegins."" In art-historical wouldbecorrect to placeNasreen at the momentin the 1960s whenartistsbecame intervisuallanguage in favorof structures thatrequired nocontesting estedin resolving andno hierarchical balancing of parts; whentheywereintenton adducing a neutral formatin whichallcompositional unitsareequalandinseparable fromthe is in perfect formalwholeandthesurface unity.Nasreen acknowledged thismoment andtooka firmstepintographic ismin the early1970s. Sheworked, aloneamongall Indianartists, withsmall-format, strictlyruleddrawings in inkand fromthedelicate watercolor andpencil on paper. Butjustasshemoved away(inthe 1970s) tracery of hergrey-and-ochre paintings drawing-grids, shemovedaway(inthe 1980s)from the ruledsurface to diagonals, in whatI callan to develop ospiringmode. position, ThusNasreen is quitelikeAgnesMartinandnot likeher,too.In continuation of Martin's shemayhavesaic poisein thechoice whichisto say,in herformalaesthetthatan artistseeks bothcompassion andrational of structures, ic;that in thesentience in suchsolitude-in herdiarV, shewrites"0necreates dimensions out of solitude""contained visionof theworldsothatsheneedneverbefoundwantingin theegalitarian worldview theartistexcavates a mystical "the proffer. ButwhileAgnesMartinwrotethat"in thediagonal theendshangloose" andthat thatthe mystics circle

re6B, ,,oru'oo. 3rd June onthetrain

In theaspiring wenton to useboththe diagonal andthe circle. expands too much,""Nasreen preferred graphicmovernenf-the lureof soundandlightning:--', mode'Nasreen

My linesspeok of troubleddestinies Phot ogr aphs : lnd e x i n g 0f deoth thatthey herworking lifebutneverexhibited them,worried throughout tookphotographs 0f insects Nasreen

basis in actualfact,nota formulabuta material secret. Theyprovide, someformalist Scrotchingwouldreveal Foom for herformalaesthetic. people and fromthephysical experience of walking, encountering Derived positioning herself, turning180degrees on herheelsto viewa mereobjectat things,stopping, tolk thot t om struck part,the groundlevel, intenton Nasreen's it isthephotographs thatmark,withoutanyprogrammed Bylightningor fire.2s

In thesephotographs, thereis a sense of andMinimalist aesthetics. intersection of lateModernist There thebeach, thecurb,thesidewalk. theatre. areplainviewsofthe street, design, evena discreet Thereis in thatprocess a placement theurbanenvironment. Themobilebodyseeks to comprehend (dis)placement Recall thesubject andtheobject. rather, an allegory of between of subjectivity-or, protocol Michelangelo Antonioni, wherein a conspicuous thecinematic of thearchitect-filmmaker the framesthe multipleperspectives of suspenseful encounters: architecture useof Modernist individual in sucha wayas theentries andexitsof an existentially charged freeze-frame structures ground, in thetraversed in placeof herpresence. Withthegazeembedded to leave a memory-trace In art-historsubjectivity. of everyday objects, a critique of a transcendent thereis,viathepresence withtheMinimalists' concern withrealspaces andthephenomenological icalterms, thiscoincides (absence) presence saysaboutthephotographer/viewer/walkof thebodywithinit. Herphotograph youhavedisappeared. youmadean encounter, theimageisconcrete, er:Youwerehere, is invisibly indexed Thatisto say,thoughthephotographer bythe photo,thereis nosubjectivi(whichcarries iserased. anexistential burden) Whentheviewerwalksaway, themoment ty at stake. place, framingmereobjects, or masis a conspicuously neutral space-aparticular Thephotograph (watertanksandhighways, Further, above). thespace canbereduced asmentioned sivestructures patternof vertical/horizontaUdiagonal lines:disembodied fromtheurban-scape, tilted to a skeletal flat-bedpicture, the framedspaceis a mapwith(out)substance. downlikea two-dimensional "language" photographic grey,Nasreen's isfullyarticulated a degree in a mediating to denote Printed Thisis furtherspecialized moment negation. zeroof space andtime,a conjunctional of illumined photograms. in ghostimages of material objects-in throughherinterest photographs provide how for herformalcodehelpsto illustrate ThatNasreen's a material basis Thatremoteness iscapwhoareallsetto figuremeaning. remote sheisfromherIndian compatriots, In 1971, Andrecameto Nasreen CarlAndre. between and,of allpeople, turedin an oddencounter (as participant India) found much-loved, modest-seeming in Second Triennale and this India a the Dehliartscene. Doingveryspare work,sheseemed to belong in thevoluble artistto bean anomaly point; precisely, her no-whereness was a camouflage. Given was it seemed, the nowhere, andthat (stillaccessible) provides mystical in India,Nasreen, linksto several traditions hercommited locotion "democratic This her what was in the caseof connects to called, whereby we mayspeak of a space." ownproject: to pavetheway,quitelitAgnes Martin, viewpoint, aswellasto Andre's anegalitarian proposed in Andre's ofspace. Nasreen, conceptual context, in orderto achieve a non-hierarchy erally, field:she in a similar equanimiof theperceptual couldbeseento beinterested a neutral traversal point plane vista, in infinite view in the withoutanyfixed the of of theexemty of non-reference, plaryroad.'o Bythe 1980s, Nasreen's art-historical detours. shehadtouched Onthat note,we canconclude wherenatureis treatedas froma sublimating nature-based abstraction on several antecedents: fieldof the lyricimage,to the conjunctional aesthetics of Russian metaphor in the expanded 14-15

in the 1920s, to theMinimalists, whotooktheobject-world of theConstructivists-their abstraction image-and return it to a grounded formalproposition thatsignaled a utopian experience, developinga phenomenology at onceconcrete andtheatrical. Andthisiswhere CarlAndre comes of space Long,whoturnedvastbodilynavigation skyintoa meditative in,andalsoRichard of earth,water, walking. actthrough proposition, Nasreen hadastute for thespa0nlysubliminally aware of theMinimalist concern walkin theshape whichtaughtherhowallspatial encounters areprivileged:You of tialdimension, yourbodyandmeasure in anexperiential full-bodied. thepaces asa neutral actthatisalso, sense, In the pragmatic manner of a peripatetic monk,thereis no moreto seethanthereisto do beyond prospect positionings in theinfinite themultiple of yourbody-self of theuniverse-and thistranslatesmaterially intotherealandeventheeveryday withstrange ease. Nasreen's life.LikeBarthes,3' Asianelements-elements of TaoandZen-arefoundthroughout is haunted inventory states of deorth with which Zen has encoded thehumansenshe byan of the naturalness" sibility: solitude, thesadness thatovercomes onebecause of the"incredible of things, positioning nostalgia, the of the body within such an everyday voidthesentiment of strangeness, likethechoosing these tooareZeninstructions, of anordinary object asthetargetof absolute attenLondon Deeply Zen, Nasreen made ambient references that were metaphysical and mysti- 21stJuly1969, tion. attracted to Examine, ond reexamine eochcounter,eoch remain cal,whilehersvmpathies serenely secular. dot whererhythm neetsin spoceondconEd ge o f t he Void

tinuouschorges occu r.32

with precision instruments, In the late1970s, Nasreen's drawings, etched beganto "distort" the grid invisible shehadworked withfor a decade, coming to forma blackmass withdia- 1 actualand 9Bo[?] lines. Tense likearrows, mondshapes cutintothem,shotthrough withradiating echoes, shafts of Notureis so true. light,theyarepenetrative, flyingintothestellar constellation, revolving likesatellites, making a Suchtruthin her silence. graphic posi- lf onlywe wouldlistento her intricocies. Thiscomplex curious reference to extraterrestrial energies. conjunction, a steeply webbed wing,isstrungto yielda setof notesthatsplinter intoechoes andtra- Thenthereis no differencein soundond tioned, delicately vision.33 in time. verse theelements in a series of reoetitive sounds displaced

Kihim music-the which 10thlvlay1971, Hereisoriental especially thegreatmelodies of Indian singing voice,'o aesthetics, Circulor depths, givesyou,in the means of sublimation, thevibrations of the shuddering soul,a vastlyspiraling melancholy. Nasreen invoked the superb ascent fromthe groundof evanescent desire and its fextureof edges Tostudycirculor depthsond depression.3 plunging dissolution: 25thNovember 1971

Economyond structure ond intuition. further 0verloppingforns...Theintensesensitivity insisted formalrigorinto ordered immanence, into romance, Nasreen on transmuting of the moon-ot eochphoseretoiningits notes. articulatinq the successive formalmovesin herstaccato Sheextended the transfiquration perfection,size.36

graceful it to an expanding orderof phenomena: of nature's changeling, themoon,delivering herdiaries to herself. whichI drawoutandaliqnin a Wefindscattered across theseinstructions freshpoeticorder:

Workin horizontolsond workin voryingproportions. Dotscirc/esorrowsleodingup ond ocross. Verticols in grodotions

raise Nasreen's drawings thequestion of whatit means to talkaboutperspective asa ubiquitous bystudyingedgesintensely. premise pointproviding up a vanishing theflip-face of of thoughtandof perspective throwing Curve imagistart that is mostlyrepresentational, anthropomorphic, blocking the horizonby fore- Curveslowlyto 0 grounded Here, in Nasreen's drawings, allisdistance. Thedrawings lift thebodyintospaceAt the edgeof thevoid/ bodies.

Extension from + ond BoIonce/To uching/Lossof boIonce Touchoir 21/2 331/244556677 4 1 / 2 5 1 / 2 6 6 7 7 8 8 9 9 .3 7




[7] Untitled,c. r987 11x 14inches Pencilandinkonpaper, Private NewYork Collection,

[8] Untitled,c. 1982 Pencilandinkonpaper,11x r4 inches Prlvate NewYork Collection.

[9] Untitted,c. 1987 Pencit 111/16x 4 inches andInkon paper, Private Collection, NewYork

waiting at theendof theperpositioning. isnothing There of itsmathematical andgiveit a sense point.Displaced shiftsof throughpercussive at the vanishing no encounter trajectory, spectival a pure andestablishes pointstretches andmemory bothterrain thevanishing target, thereceding perceptual fieldtz'e'sl. space and intostellar thetelescope isseeing asif through optical-she Thustheworksremain itself The drawing of the eye. in small orb reflected back the it seeing thevision, thenretracting on the structure to floatin the opticalfieldandthensettlequitefirmly:a microcosmic seems great from the distances, across these glance she sees maps out the terrain paper. she Witha mere air. of land,water, interface ground findinga transparent above to theskybelow, perreversalthrough in gainsa magical is reflected A mini-matrix of thecosmos in her diary: Nasreen says orrives. focus.WiththaI,cognition spectival

Baroda 17th July1973, Breok

perspicacity to theSufitradition.Resf arecrucial anditsunaccountable basis ofconsciousness Theperceptual "Whenever the Breokthe cycleof seeing Tell," WhoKnow, Cannot titled'Those in anaphorism ThegreatJalalad-DinRumisays, orrives.'" Mogicondoworeness of theConsciousness."'e speaking Hislipsaresewnagainst aretaughtto anyone Secrets of Perception calandArabic loveof Turkish andMughalarchitecture to referhereto Nasreen's It isappropriate partheinvisible thatnotates of design sense andthesublime lslamic architectonics ligraphy-of paths as if the train space are ground light geometry andthestellar on the Thepristine adise. * jectories theskiesin eternalflight. lorethat crisscross of lslamic of thoseforishtos

Passin g O n

richbodyof the planliftingtimeoff thetexturally graphic arelikeangels trajectories Nasreen's replete in the too textually already condensation is through secret et; theyalsodistillwhat graffiti, withthefoottextwithspiritual oceans. Shereplaces of drylandandsurging mythology post wipes awaythese she last in the skies-then printsof theselfsame to the speeding angels of theselflikeso muchscumon the itself.Brushing off the matrices andevenspace footsteps, with paper, withhersteelinstruments, Nasreen draws of faceof light,whichis herwhitesheet This it in reverse. pencil, I saidthattheangelliftsoff timebutshethenre-inscribes ink,andbrush. "A page."o' line across the is likea scriptfor thefuture: curved process, that theprocess Themorphological disappears. thelandscape Whenthemoonwanes, act, a self, an objectivizing produces A displaced ontology. likean obsolete form,is liquidated of foldsup the memory subjectivity, eyel,renounces shutsthesadistic art:Nasreen nonobjective the need and takes on her humility. She exposes embraces of means, the poverty love,accepts fool. female mantle of a self-mocking andemptyon the wandering beloved, astheunclaimed imageof Nasreen There isa persistent ottention. waiting-gothering wasof onealways self-image beachasthetidegoesout.Nasreen's at Bombay, in her shack beyond of Mayshewassittingnotfar fromhersisters Qnemorning on suddenly, shepassed Sea. Sittingasif in preparation, shoreof theArabian Kihim, a stillvacant withouta sound.

published Earlier versions for an Unclaimed of thisessay are:"Elegy Beloved," in Altaf,ed., "Elegy in Gayatri Solitude," Sinha, ed.,Evocotions ondFxpresslons 19971; for an Unclaimed Beloved: Nasreen l\.4ohamedi 1937-1990," in Whenwos {Marg,Bombay, essoys on contemporory culturolprocticein /ndio(NewDelhi:TulikaBooks,2000). "WeWhoAreFree, 1.Helene Cixous, AreWeFree?," in Cilticollnquiry,Vol.19, No.2, (Winter19931: 209. "Nasreen's 2.Yashodhara Dalmia, Diaries: An Introduction," in Altal ed., references to Nasreen's diaryentries aretitled"Diaries," andaretakenfromthe abovesource. Whereexactdatesarenot mentioned by Nasreen, Yashodhara Dalmia hassetup a withthehelpof Nasreen chronology datesremain doubtful, I haveindicated this by placing thedatewitha question markwithinsquare brackets. (fivesisters wasfourhermotherdiedwhilegivingbirthto heryoungest 3.WhenNasreen son.Thefamily, consisting of thefatherandeightchildren and to herownbodyafterageforty-five. (c.1298-1350), 4.Janabai translated fromthe lvlarathi byVilas Sarang, in Susie TharuandK.Lalita, ed.,Women Witingin lndio:600BCto the Present, 20th Century(Delht:OxfordUniversity Press, 19911, 83-84. 5."Diaries," 90. 6.Akkamahadevi, fromthe Kannada translated byA.K.Ramanu.lan, in Women Wtitingin lndio,Volume 1,77. 'Akimcanna: 7.A.K.Coomaraswamy, in RogerLipsey, Self-Naughting," ed.,Coomoroswomy 2. Selected Pope6: Metophysics, Bollingen Series UXXIX(Princeton: Princeton Press, University 1977), 88. 8. Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse: Frogments(London: Jonathan Cape,1979), 15. 9 . t b i d .3. 9 . 10.Ronald Duncan,'Letter 11:Heloise to Abelard," in Abelord ond Heloise: A Correspondence for theStogein IwoActs(London: Faber, 1961), 74-76.Seealsofhelettersof (Harmondsworth: Abelord ond Heloise Penguin, 1974). 11.Barthes. loversDlscou6e. 10-11. 12.lbid.,+4. 1 3 ." D i a r i e s1,s" tF e b r u a 1r y9 7 4 ,9 6 . 14.SeeNormanBryson, VislonondPointing: TheLogicof theGoze(London: l\.4acmillan, 19831, 87-131. "Futurism-Suprematism, (LosAngeles: 15.Kazimir Malevich, 1921:An Extract," in Kozimir Molevich1878-1935 TheArmandHammer Museum of Art andCulture 1990), Center, 177. 1 6 .' D i a r i e s9,7" . 1 7 .l b i d . , 3 0 tShe p t e m b1e9r 7 0 ,9 3 1 8 .l b i d .1, 2 t hM a r c h1 9 7 1Ba , r o d a ,9 3 . 1 9 .l b i d .1, 3 t hM a r c h1 9 7 0[1 , 9 1 . 20.All statements by AgnesMartinaboutlife,thought,andart aretakenfromBarbara Haskell, ed.,Agnes Mortin(NewYork:Whitneyl/useumofAmerican Art,1992). The bookincludes essays by Barbara Haskell, AnnaC.Chave and Rosalind Krauss. (lsaiah: "Agnes quotedin AnnaC.Chave, 21.Biblical reference 40)by Agneslvlartin Martin:'Humility, the Beautiful Daughter...All HerWaysAreEmpty;" in ibid.,144. quotingTaoistsageChuang 22.Chave, Tzu(fromThomas l\ilerton, TheWoyof Chuong lzu,NewYork:NewDirections, 1965/1969, 80),in ibid.,145. 23.Agnes[/artin,"TheUntroubled Mind,"in AgnesMortin,15. quotingRosalind (from"Perceptual 24.Chave Krauss andlVlarcia Tucker Field," in CriticolPespectives in Americon Art {Amherst: FineArtsCenterGalleryUniversity of [,4assachusetts, l976),15),in ibid.,106. 25.Rosalind Krauss,'Grids," in Originolity of theAvont-Gorde ond]ther Modernist Myths(Cambridge: MITPress, 1986), 9-10. 26."Diaries," 85. [lVay22,1964?], 27."Diaries," 3rdSeptember 1967,87. 28.AgnesMartin,"TheUntroubled Mind,"in AgnesMortin,14. 2 9 ." D i a r i e s8,8". (in Agnes "Agnes l\,4artin" 30.SeeChave, Mortin,l43),for a discussion of thecommonali shipwith Nasreen). 31.SeeBarthes. Lover's Discouse.17o. 3 2 ." D i a r i e s9,1". 3 3 .l b i d .9, 7 . 3 4 .F o re x a m p lA em , i rK h a nBh , im seJo n sh Ga i, n g u bHa a i n g a l. 35."Diaries," 94. 3 6 .l b i d .9, 5 . 37.Gleaned from"Diaries" by the author. 38."Diaries," 96. 3 9 .J a l aal d - D i nR u m iq, u o te d b y ld r ie Sh s a hin , T h eWo yo f th eSu fi( H armondsw orth: P engui 1968), n, 114. (Paris: 40.SeeRamachandra in Artistes Gandhi, indiensen Froncellndian Artistsin Francel CentreNational desArtsPlastiques, 1985), 34. 4 1 . ' D i a r i e s[ 1, "9 7 1 1D, elh 9 i, 4 .


hol Untitled XXII l, c. 1958. Black& whitephotogaph,g 714 x 74 9176inches.

lr;";l t::

I NewYor k . [ 1 1 ]U n t i t l e d , c.1 9 8 2 . In ko n p a p e\221116x283/8inches.Pr ivateCollection,



**"5ff +.* 1t#r*'

" .t

= *::r:.r,.,

"t 1

,i l. .,t: ' .



107/16x 14inches. [ 1 2 ] U n t i t l e d X V l l , c. 1 9 8 1 .B l a ck& whitephotogr aph,

Fu g i tive T i me: N a sre e n M ohamedi 's D raw i n g s a n d P h o t o g r a p h s S US E T TE M IN

Mohamedi(1937-1990)attempted to render, in her Nasreen Ashinted at in herdailyjournalentries, photographs detailed observations on an ever-changing andfinelinedrawings, black-and-white Kihim, India, to the modernized congestion fromtheshifting sands of serene landscape-everything without numherimages mayat firstglance seem likemaps or graphs andDelhi. Though of Bombay experience, but drawings arenotaboutspatializing bers, lwouldliketo suggest that Mohamedi's by HenriBergson's conceptualization of timeasdurdenotovertlyinfluenced abouttime.Although herwayof seeing, living, andwritingaboutlife,andherphotographic as memory-her drawings, flowof [existence withhisnotionof timeas"anunending allmanifest a process consonant endeavors instants." Heruseof lineattempts to connect an ratherthana succession of discrete andpersistence] theindivisible duration thatexists between innerandouterflux,thepastandpresent of experience, of drawing and world,pushing against thelimited attributes an innerconsciousness anda physical Arthistorian Yashodhara Dalmia describes this"remarkable contiof a piece of paper. theboundaries rhythm, onethatdelved Mohamedi strived for,"atapping of a universal nuityof vision" assomething practice Mohamedi's founda common structural unity."' and intotheessence of things andthereby a process of development, a multidisciplinary encounter. herdrawings thusrepresent pursued in design at St.Martin's in outlook froman earlyage,Mohamedi a degree Cosmopolitan (1954-57)and 1961 laterstudied in Paris on a scholarship between theArtsin London Schoolof bytheresemin Western art history andModernism, asindicated and1963. Shewaswellversed focusof herphotheformalist between herdrawings andtheworkof theConstructivists, blance Lorca MariaRilke-and to certain writers-Frederico Garcia andRainer tographs, andherreferences Kandinsky, sheplaced on thelatter's andto theimportance artists suchasPaulKleeandWassily Kihim, everywhere, frequently to Bahrain, andKuwait, concept of "innernecessity." Shetraveled places Whatseemed to attractherduringthese asJapan andNewYork. aswellasto suchfaraway andthenew,buttheimperceptible cycles andimperfections of travels werenotthemonumental 1968 life in the streets. Herbeing l l th.January nature, the overlooked infrastructures and detritusof everyday Wolking vost spoces-spocesfilled omong Zen details of passing lifeseems to beillustrated by thefollowing inspired bythe unremarkable with intricote forms, lines orriving filled "wATcHtNc quote, YouR foundin herhandbag: in herownwritingon a thinpiece of paper, copied

with vorious textures, foot steps inside


rnherphotographs and In particulal Mohamedi wasdeeply andintensely aware, asindicated journalentries, in time. of herselfandherbodymoving

feet-lines arriving ond receding into lost spoce-the horizons keeping the linitless in limits-oll forming o whole.2

thatMohamedi3rdN ovember It wasduringhertripsto the beaches of Kihimandthedesert oasis of Bahrain 1959 personal perceptions world highly vocabulary for her of the through the lan- ...Nothingness ond ogoin nothingness. beganto devise a guageof geometry. Those pltterns on the beoch. Those little crobswhich moke those endlesspotterns...3

Analogous on theebbandflowof thesurfandthewarpandweftof to herdiaryobservations pursuit, photographic practice piece notmeantA pri lK, i hi m her wasa private, idiosyncratic a of wovenfabric,

Coiling, coiled rope 2l

Anchoredin sond An ocute triongle Woshedrofts... Groy,white, chorcool,blue, block Dividedbv lines,textures,crocks...o

thatonecanturnt0 precisely notebooks aspersonal andjournals lt istempting to readherphotographs viewing. for public the worldthroughan looked at in which she way of thesustained andciteasevidence for insightintohermotivations in a Thus, asearlyasthe late1950s, andpatterns. light,shade, textures, shapes, orderof lines, or structural system abstract peapod-shaped or spaceship or imageof whatlookslikea verylargewatermelon obscura-produced or camera negative "nature" as of technology, withtheethereal herfascination seems to expose planetakingoff intothenightsky,Mohamedi ttsl.0r, white and picture plane formal black in a shapes andlinesthatmakeup a andhorizontal wellaswiththevertical in whichthebottomhalfof structure architectural viewof an lslamic a partial photograph later, sheframes takentenyears Thewhite andwindows. niches blind arched wallwithdeeply-set fagade of a white-washed contains theexternal theimage formalcorrespondences in finding herinterest highlights structure of thebuilding withthewhiteness skymerging expansive nature andtheman-made. between form style,thewaytheyemphasize pretensions-especially in theircompositional photographs'Modernist Despite the 131)-l t6, want to loom on a vertical seaof tautthreads shotof a luminescent theclose-up for example, andlight(especially, an orderly worldthrough out of a discordant a neworderof reality thattheseworksarenotjustaboutframing suggest photographs loom anda weaving of a thatsheis taking to Mohamedi lt matters lines, andtones. of shapes, arrangement of takingthepicwiththemoment herengagement to capture anattempt constitute for example:They building, historical photography is less clearthat it becomes a momentin flux.In herlaterworks, shardof experience, ture,witha temporal are. thanherdrawings thisengagement ableto accomplish pavement of marks consisting depicting photographed of images a series Mohamedi Duringa tripto Japanin the 1980s, down motorists to slow on theroadwarnspeeding symbols Thewhite-colored sp161ry5[rzl. or geometric chevrons converging an photographs illusion, an optical are the in essence, crash; impending and of acceleration the impression by creating with correlates of a caror anaccident "atemporal of a carandthememory between theillusion Theoscillation abstraction."s perceives," says perceive "To more than one perceive to perception: is always memory and of concepts HenriBergson's value, canneverby itselfcapture itsindexical "There Photography, despite notfullof memories."u is no perception Bergson. of whattheyotheran excess photographs meaning, creating with past. We imbue a a history, of a moment, theentirety is partof mighthaveargued, Bergson to photography, attributed of transparency statusor sense Thespecial wisedenote. of disoutor a spatialization andtimeasa parceling "ocularcentrism,"'a of perception misunderstanding society's modern "real" perception, aspointson a line.Rather, time,like hours, anddayscannotbemeasured Minutes, units.s creteimmobile withtheeyebothopenandclosed. subjectively, flows continuously, itsduration withoutdistinction; unfolds Returning to Mohamedi's towards thepast,thewhat-has-been. oriented relationship to timeisof necessity Photography's paved at Fatehur courtyard of the a close-up for or example, at street-level, photographs-a takenfroman angle crosswalk thatfor Mohamed', | wouldsuggest andherdrawings? of herphotographs mightwethinkabouttherelationship Sikri-how perception-conceived of asanhabitinterrupt world, but to the to document liesnotin itsability of thephotograph thepower and of Bahrain Nodoubthermanyvisitsto thedeserts andimperceptible. theoverlooked ualwayof seeing-tomakestriking in motion. Here, both in life continually sand, a dirt and landscape of thesilentanddormant revealed to her,beneath Kuwait watching livedexperience, patterns, of an internal theawareness theevanescent to capture wordsandon film,sheattempted passed a room. through glistening loom as sunlight on a filaments grains of sandor vertical thechanging herself observe of of thesemoments succession a continuous commingling, offera constant herdrawings to herphotographs, In contrast andink suchasanearlywatercolor drawings, lookat someof Mohamedi's perception. lf onetakesa prolonged interrupted filter and capture to they seem mid-1980s, the through fromthe 1970s or mostof herdrawings imagefromthelate1960s graytones. For of lineandvariable photography, but througha thickandthinness in motion,liketime-lapse experience multiple map of railway lines or a network of telephone lookslikea fromthe mid-1980s, the untitleddrawing example, of different linesandrightangles A series of straight location. powerstationor central on someunseen converging routes planes. In the background, horizon points, two overlapping endless backto multiple of grayzoomout andrecede shades location, slightly fromthisunknown Midway arelightlydrawnon the paper. lines(1 inchapproximately) rowsof vertical 22-23

N '\" $r

N ffi St\


t$ I 1 3 ]U n t i t l e dV l , c


\t, , -*

di agonal loff y the page,creati ngw i deexpanses, thic k erm , or ef ir m l yd ra w nl i n e sd e c re s c e n dl iok eraysof l i ght,descendi ng ' s modestdi mensi ons (l l l Z x 7 112i n.).Mi ght w e readthi s dr awing plainsof s pac e,i mp l y i n ga v a s tn e sdse s p i teth e image constantlchangi y ngw i th the ebband fl ow of the t ide t o t x p e ri e n c efrom s, a coastl i ne a s t he int er pen e tra ti oonf d i ffe re n e the ac t ionof M o h a me d i 'bso d ymo v i n gfro m o n e pl aceto another? execut ed to capturespeci fi cpl acesor moments,her sensi ti vely i o k p h o tographs W her easlt s e e m sth a t Mo h a me dto exper iences d r awingsat t em p tto ren d e ra c c u m u l a ti o nosf d e tai l sthat ul ti matel yadd up to an overl appi ngof mul ti -sensory " con st r uct ed" graphi cal l y w here of vi sualel ements, bal anced cacophony o v era long per io d o f ti m e .T h i si s d o n eth ro u g ha i nspi redby a w eavi ngpatt er non a . exampl e, of l i ghtandshadowFor tr iangles or t he w i d th o f a l i n em i g h ts u g g e sdt e grees (c. t hat tri angles e i e mb a rk eodn a s erl esof smal ldraw i ngs 1987),a vari ati onof l i nedi soscel es s am plerin her r o o m,M o h a m d w i th a semi -ci rclien the mi ddl eand a l argervers ionof t he c om et oget herin th e s h a p eo f a p y ra m i do r d i amond-shape, suggesti ng shadowtz' s 8'sl Anot her by sl i ghtl ydarkerl i nesunderneath, c ur v es et at t he b a s eo f th e tri a n g l ed i s ti n g u i shed o ne.Lying tri angl es, one sl i ghtl yl argerthan the precedi ng d r awingof t he s a m es e ri e si s m a d eu p o f th re eoverl appi ng tri angl e,mi rrori ngone of the ti psof the tr iangles. beneat ht hes es n o w -c a p p em d o u n ta i n -l i kseh a p esi s a smal l re darkened by nature,perhaps,or by a patterni n a w eavi ngsampl eror an i m ageseen Thiss er iesof dr a w i n g sa,s w e l la s o th e rsi,n s p i red a wr it sti l l [an i mage,a sound,a memo r y, , v e a l as te n si onbetw eenusi ngsomethi ng in pas s ing dur in go n e o f h e r tra v e l sre of moti oni n ti me. a l i n e )i n o rd e rto c a p tu rea n e x p e ri ence ten s ent enc e, yet nuancedst at ist ical mi d-1980s) appearto be compl i cated M oham edi'asb s tra cdt ra w i n g sfro m th i s ti me Il ate-1970s, wat er colc . arei ndee d qui tedi fferentfrom her earl ybi omorphi tnk-andchar t sor m apso f s o u n dw a v e so r fre q u e n c i eTshey of col oranddri ppi nggestur alm ar ks o r paint ings and d ra w i n g sfro m th e 1 9 6 0 si,n w hi chsheusedqui ck,thl ckbrushstrokes 's t inggeofrom theseearl yw orksto l V ohamediexac transi ti on r a b s tra ctra t c e so f p l a n tl i fea n d n ature.' The in ink t o r ende of the wor kof , h i charedevoi dof organi cshapesand forms,i s remi ni scent m et r icdr awing so f th e l a te 1 9 7 0 sa n d 1 9 8 0 sw mentsof squares andl i nescanbe readas hor izons, arrange AgnesM ar t in,es p e c i a lhl ye re a rl i e pr a i n ti n g si n, w hi chsymmetri cal

[14] Untitted, c. 1987. Penciland ink on paper,rr x r4 inches.Privatecollection,NewYork.


! * * ?5#4! *



107l$x149l$inches [ 1 5 ] U n t i tte d l l , c. r9 5 8 . B l a ck& whitephotogr aph,

Martin's workalongside "people, reading of Mohamedi's grass, Kapur's Geeta aslittlerectangles..."'o but workasbeingnotaboutnature, of Martin's herdescription paintings especially is persuasive, ." nature of beingbefore theexperience partsof the world fromverydifferent It is compelling to thinkabouthowthesetwo artists "plane following simiandawareness," a of attention the useof lineto create mayhaveshared Butthetwo mode. non-representational of nature to a purely abstraction larpathsfroma lyrical to the theirrelation of theirartisticmission, underpinning in the fundamental artistsdiverge use gridsandhorizontal linesandhersensuous atemporal hand-drawn signature real.Martin's "classicist" Heratmospheric space.'' or to reach a morethanperfect to create, of coloraremeans of something paintings, amountto a turnawayfromtheworld,a representation in otherwords, understood the realandthesocial, Mohamedi embraced there."In contrast, that isn'tpossible Rather thansimply the megalopolis. counterpart, andasitsartificial environment bothasnatural oftenfoundherplace Mohamedi likeKihimor Bahrain, in a quietserene refuge or solitude seeking 1970. Hermoveto Bombay in from Delhi, moving there gravitating center of the chaotic towards self representaof-traditional of-evenrenunciation to hertransformation Delhiseemed to correspond productive. lt was most place to have been where she appears the inspiration, it a site of tion; became that imposed by the teemingdensityof a majormetropolis, overload here,amidthe sensory reading of following Martin Jay's called, what might be as well as found silence drawings Mohamedi's priorto herabsorbing thechaos around Inotherwords, of thesenses. Bergson, an"equiprimordality"'o presence perceive in time. her to - 1e88 to understand, and experience her senses Mohamedi used all her, Windbreok Lorgeshodowbelow Multiple

of theworldaroundher,theydo not withthethickactivity engage drawings Butif Mohamedi's asa referent aspect of thecity,somuchastheyserve nature, or a particular represent or render 5peed grid paper notationVibrotions. graph as a continuous or the of her literal use we of time.Might contemplate Multiple of an lntensityof sweep aslineartraces drawings Mohamedi's to perceive isn'tit possible of time?In otherwords, bodyin and Unduloting... of herdisplaced a reanimation cycleof natureandmodernity; imperfect on-going endured time? landscape, through Curve a changing through

comins toono, stowly ForMohamedi,life was not a matterof time, but of duration,a 'i..timeof the livedbodyand Curve porks bodyshouldbe invisiblypresentin Silence in ocoustic oosrs As Kapurwrites,'i..thatIMohamedi's] subjectiveexperience."'' greatest control of the stress a under the feat...maintaining situotions. virtuoso Different a map of a few linesis a roods, that the debi l i tati ng N ew a determi nati on u nderscore s t r a i g h tl i n e sc, a re fu l l yc o m p o s e d, hand. . . " , ' Her Troffi i stonds" c m us c lec ondit io nth a t a ffl i c te dh e r i n h e r l a te ry earsnot confi neor l i mi t her capaci tyfor dai l y B otconi es, lif e.M oham edi 'lsi n e w a s n o t me re l ya fo rm a le l ementto be usedi n her draw i ngsas a poi nt i n /eroces al l the d fthreadthat connected m ot ionor a s eri e so f a d j a c e n pt o i n ts i,t w a sa l i fe-enhanci ng si mi l arto her f er entpar t sof h e r l i fe .C o l o rfu lro w so f u n i fo rmhori zontall i nesand di agonal s, permeate the w ri ttenl andscape dr awingsand r e mi n i s c e notf re c e n tp a i n ti n g sb y Li ndaB esemer, ' 1 9 7 0 s , out enti reentri esof her di ary s hebegancrossi ng i n th e of M oham edi'dsi a ri e sB. e g i n n i n g yel l ow pen W hatthe l i nessi gni w i th a th i c kb l u e ,b ro w n ,a n d and dailys c hed u l e [i nsi decovers]. andthoughtscenacti vi ti es bu n her dai l yrecorded , t th e i rc o n n e c ti o to f y r em ainsindete rm i n a te for Mohamedi the , useof the l i ne that t er ingon her ac ti n gb o d ymo v i n gth ro u g hs p a c esuggests draw i ngs,photographs, was s v nes t heti c a lilny te rtw i n e dw i th h e r o th e r arti sti cendeavors-her 17thJul y sounds. andrecorded imper- Wotching the electricions topping the thecity's capturing witha taperecorder, of dailyaction thesounds Herhabitof recording withthe wires-stroinsbetween concentrotionond fascination Mohamedi's quirksanduncanny returns, underlines fections, its unexpected donger-hung on o rope.18 lt is temptingto activities of urbanspacein the lateryearsof herlife.'e metropolis, the everyday at the experience aswellashersubjective andimpactof thesesounds, thatthevibrations speculate

lr5, rZ, r8l UntitledSeries(u), c. 1986 Pencil ongraphpaper, 8 1/2x 11inches Private Collection, NewYork

for example, byan untitledwork(c.1982)in whichsherenareexpressed, timeof theirrecording, paper. raindrops-in thecenterof a pieceof graphite row spheroids-metaphorical dersa of seven growsin sizeastheydescend thepage, to a concave oval.Thickbroadlinesflowacross Each spheroid growsmaller gettinglighterasthecircles indeterminate, in size. Anyreading of herworkisof course manifestation represents a slivered of drawing theideathatthisparticular butit isdifficultto resist 20thJuly1971, Delhi vibration-of silence. visual recording of sound, of duree, a depths. Ploinersurfoceswith concentroted (forn) line, ore born of effort, in andthrough thebodyandall hersens- Eoch texture theworldandtime,or duree, Mohamedi apprehended poin.2o historyond

"Noimagecanreplace images, but manydiverse theintuition of duration, writes, es.AsBergson of their action, direct things, may, by the convergence fromthe verydiverse orderof borrowed Throughout herlifeintuition to beseized."'' to the pointwherethereis a certain consciousness and closed. Even herself see with her eyes both open disciplined to seeanew, to time,Mohamedi that entries anxiety, an imperative tonein someof herjournal in herdiaries, thereliesa poignant 13July1969, London pedagogical reminders or mantras. reads almostlike

Whenlookingot o pointing Sculptureor onything -exomineeochcontour Eachdot,surfoce. 18thJuly Studythe EYE SPACE )bservesomeobjectsin Differentlight A cosmicrhythmwith Eochstroke andlazywaystheeyeandmindnatu- Soundond vibrotions[study) the habitual Herwritings attestto an effortto challenge the staticwaysof seeingtime and space.Movementond emptinessz2 rallylearnto followcertainrulesof perspective,

wasan intense anddisciplined endeavor that andvisualizing one'sexperience Understanding on thebodv's activerolein themoment. depended

4thoctober 1968, Topkapi

Colligrophy A squoreI ... language. withlslamic architecture andtheArabic It isnotsurprising thatshewasalsofascinated in the 1960s and Pogesof symmetry Rajasthan, lran,andTurkey throughhistoric Herimpressions of time-traveling Blueondgoldpoleflowersondsymbols of Indiamay urbanlandscape andmodernization laterherfascination withtherapidly changing lntersecting herwritings.'zo She -on obstroctform... in Mohamedi's drawings, buttheirimpactunderlies not bedirectly expressed

itssymmetrical struc- At timessilentlyengrovingupontheoge withlslamic architecture's attention to nature, musthavefoundresonance on itswalls, thescript's balance of dis- Witho triongleor o rectongle withArabic inscriptions engagement tureandharmonious lt doesnotseemimpos- Tinytiny letters verticals andhorizontals. curves andflowing tinctive dotsovertemperate rec- A restroineddiscipline flowof memory andhistory, a temporary served asa continuous sibletoothatherdrawings TheArobicwith o squorishstrength pastandthepushto moveforward. between thehistoric onciliation of tension lnterlacingiron wroughtstructure a glimpse of its fluxin remains fugitive, but theactof capturing Therendering of duration o few bold linesto boloncewith Sometimes is perhaps by o o " forward through space bestexemplified bodyasit moves andthroughMohamedi's (c.19S6) looklikesundialstt6,tT't81. Withslight a series of drawings that,fromoneperspective, Thetop disk in the centerof a pieceof graphpaper. variations, areplaced two flat ovalcircles Thebottomdisk,partially covered by the top disk, corner. hasa dialpointing to the left-hand the circles withstriated lines. Running throughor behind covered seems to serveasa shadow, run linesthatseemto beginin the bottomrighthandcorner, straight aretwo setsof multiple parallel Todescribe at the top left-hand corner. andconverge diagonally straightup the page,

whichnowis inextricably mayseemto contradict Bergson's concept of durde. Unlike theclock, assundials thesedrawings reduces timeintodislinkedwithcommerce andcapitalism,a ralionalization andspatialization of timethatinaccurately relies the motion of the sun. The sundial uses sunlight and shadow to measure measurable units, the sundial still on crete stoneobservatories scattered around isnoevidence thatMohamedi evervisited anyof thevarious astronomical time.There Butlooking backat Mohamedi's interest, it is hardto resist thespeculation that India, noteventheJantar-Mantar of Delhi. it didto the photograph;a means to imagine tempoherinvestment in timeasdureemayhaveledherto thesundialas diffusely throughan ever-expanding space. rality, an experience of themotionof thesunandherbodymoving

(Bombay: "Nasreen's in Altaf,ed.,Nosreen in Retrospect AshraflVlohamedi Trust,'1995), 84. 1.Yashodhara Dalmia, Diaries: An lntroduction" 2. "Diaries." 87. 3 . t b i d .8, 5 . 4. lbid.,86. ln Downcost TheDenigrotion Fromthe lmpressionists to Bergson" Eyes: of Visionin 5. lvlartin Jay,'TheCrisis of theAncientScopicRegime: (Berkeley: Press, 1994), 200. Univercity of California quoteis culled Princeton Press, 1997), Words on thePhotogrophy ofHistory(Princeton: University 95.Bergson's 6. Bergson, asquotedin Eduardo Cadava, of Light:Theses (NewYork:ZoneBooks, 1991), offersa provocative discussion of theconnections frcmhisMottetondMemory, PaulandW.ScottPalmer 33.Cadava trans.NancyMargaret inadequately bearstracesof the real. Bergson's theories andphotography's afterimage, arguingthatthesnapshot between 7. Jay,op.cit.,149-209. (Cambridge: ThelVllT Press, 2004),122. Lee,"Studyfor an Endof the World"in Chronophobio: 0n Timein the Attof the 1960s 8. Pamela painters "Elegy for an Unclaimed Beloved: Nasreen lVohamedi 1937-1990' in thisvolume. Mathieu. SeeGeetaKapur, ingTachiste suchasGeorges 1 0 .l b i d .1, 5 . 1 1 l.b i d .1, 5 . n t,1 9 9 2 ) . Y o r kW : h i t n eM y useum o f Am e r icaAr 1 3 .t b i d . 14.Jay,op.cit.,205. '15."Diaries," 97. 16. Lee,op.cit.,122. 17. Kapur, op cit. '18."Diaries," 94. no examples aboutNasreen in an emaildatedFebruary 2, 2005.Unfortunately, of theserecordings 19.Deepak Talwar shared thisimportant andprovocative bit of information areknownto existtoday. 20."Diaries," 94. 19551, 15-16. Bobbs-Merrill, 21.HenriBergson, An lntroduction to Metophysics, trans.T.E.Hulme(lndianapolis: n l o h a m e d i.' Dia9r ie 1 .s," 2 2 .N a s r e el V 2 3 .l b i d .8, 9 . Patelaswellasto herstudents at Baroda. Please see to herpeersat the timesuchasTyebl\ilehta, Gaitonde, andJerome 24.lvlohamedi wasof courseinspired andindebted in DrowingSpoce: ln Nasreen l/ohamedi's retrospective catalogandGrantWatson's essay Contemporory


9 th6 x 115/8 inches. h9l Untitled )fi|, c. 1981. Black& whitephotograph,


.,.-...",_;-,, .._,.-.. -.", i'

[ 20 ] U n t i t l e d , c.l g S 2 .P e n ci l o n g ra phpaper ,Sll2x11 inches.Pr ivatecollection, N ew Yor k .

L i st o f W ork s

Untitledll trsl c . 1958 Black â&#x201A;ŹtWhitePhotograph 1 07/ 16x 149/ 16in c h e s

XV[backcover] Untitled c.1971 Photograph Black ft White 9 7 /1 6x 1 49/16i nches

Untitled)c(l trql c. 1981 & WhitePhotograph Black 9 1 / 1 6x 1 15 / 8i n c h e s

Untitled c . 1963 andinkonpaper Watercolor I 5/8x I 1/2inches NewYork Private Collection,

V Untitled c .1 9 7 2 Photograph Black ft White 8 1 1 /1x6145/8i nches

Untitled[zo] c. 1982 Pencil on graphpaper 8 1/2x 1'linches NewYork Collection, Private

Untitled c . 1967 0ilandinkoncanvas 40x 36inches NewYork Private Collection, Untitledlzl c. 1967 andinkonpaper Watercolor 8 1/4x 8 1/4inches NewYork Private Collection, Untitledt1l c . 1968 andinkonpaper Watercolor 12112 x 9 3/ 4inc h e s NewYork Private Collection, untitledI c. 1968 Photograph Black ft White l3h6inc h e s 7 718x 11 )c(llltrol Untitled c . 1968 Black ft WhitePhotograph x 149/ 16 inc h e s 9 114 untitledxxlv c . 1968 Black ft WhitePhotograph I 114x149/ 16inc h e s untitledlv c . 1970 ft White Photograph Black 9 5/8x 149/16inches XIVt+] Untitled c . 1971 Photograph Black & White 8 1/ 4x 14inc hes

Vl trrl Untitled c. 1972 Black ft WhitePhotograph 8 1 1 /1x6149/16i nches untitledvll t6l c .1 9 7 2 Black ft WhitePhotograph I 1 1 /1 6x 14 9/16 i nches

Untitledtsl c. 1977 Pencil andinkon graphpaper 7 x 7 inches NewYork Private Collection, Untitled [frontcover] c. 1977 Pencil andinkon graphpaper 7 x 7 inches NewYork Private Collection, Untitled c . 1977 Pencil andinkon graphpaper 7 x 7 inches NewYork Private Collection, Untitled [insidecovers] c . 1978 Inkon diarypagepaper 5 x 7 15i1 6i n c h e s NewYork Collection, Private Untitledlll (Triptych) c . 1978 Blackft WhitePhotograph 35 7/ 16x 1 4 1 5 / 1 6i n c h e s UntitledX/ll trzl c . 1981 Blackft WhitePhotograph 107/ 16 x 1 4i n c h e s

Untitled[u] c. 1982 I n Ko n p a p e r 22 1116 x 283/8inches NewYork Collection, Private UntitledSeries(11)[r5,r7,18] c.1986 Pencil on graphpaper 8 1/2x 11inches NewYork Private Collection, UntitledSeries(6) c. 1987 Pencil on graphpaper Sheet: 8 'l/4x 115/8inches lmage: 6 7i9x I 3/4inches NewYork Private Collection, Untitled[r+l c. 1987 11x 14inches Pencil andinkon paper, NewYork Private Collection, Untitled ltl c. '1987 11x 14inches Pencil andinkon paper, NewYork Private Collection, Untitledt8l c. 1987 11x 14inches Pencil andinkon paper, NewYork Private Collection, Untitledtql c. 1987 111/16x 14inches Pencil andinkon paper, NewYork Private Collection,

NewYork TalwarGallery, All worksCourtesv

Thisis number52 of the DrowingPopers,a series of publications documenting TheDrawing Center's exhibitions andpublicprograms andproviding a forumfor the studyof drawing. The2004-2005seasonof the DrowingPopers is madepossible throughcontributions to the EdwardHallamTuck Publication Program from Frances BeattyAdler,MaryandRobertCarswell, RobertDuke,Elizabeth Fondaras, KathyFuld,EllenGallagher, Mr.andMrs.JamesR.Houghton, WernerH. Kramanky, JoanneLyman, Michael Lynne, JohnJ. Madden, Negroponte, TheFelixandElizabeth George Rohatyn Foundation, Inc.,Shearman ft SterlingLLP, andLilyTuck. Catherine de Zegher ExecutiveDirector

Negroponte George President Bo ard of Dire c t or s

Frances Beatty Adler Choirmon

EricC.Rudin Vice-Choirmon

DitaAmory J eanM agnano Bollinger MelvaBucksbaum Frances Dittmer ColinEisler Elizabeth Factor BruceW. Ferguson BarryM. Fox JamesR.Hedges, lV WernerH. Kramarsky* AbbyLeighW illiam S .Liebe rm a n MichaelLynne lrisMarden Catherine 0rentreich Elizabeth Rohatyn* JaneDresner Sadaka AllenLeeSessoms Michael Steinberg Jeanne C.Thayer* AndreaWoodner 'Emerita D r a w l n g C e n t e r Pu b llca tlo n s AdamLehner, Executive Editor LucDerycke, Desrgner JoannaBerman, Coordinotor TheDrawing Center 35 Wooster Street NewYork,NY10013 T e (l 2 1 22) 1 9 - 2 1 6 6 Fax(212)966-2976 @The Drawing Center



cTt t/


411 f*


Nasreen Mohamedi: Lines Among Lines  

The Drawing Center's Drawing Paper, Volume 52 With essays by Susette Min and Geeta Kapur.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you