Seminar : 6 – 7 March 2009

Nasreen Mohamedi: The Legacy of Indian Abstraction

The Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) is proud to announce the first solo exhibition in Europe of Nasreen Mohamedi, as part of a wider programme tracing alternative modernisms. Mohamedi (1937-1990) is regarded as one of the most important Indian artists of her generation, and her paintings, drawings and photographs, produced from the early 1960s to the late 1980s, constitute a key body of work within the modernist canon.

Mohamedi studied in London and Paris during the late 1950s and early 60s, and returned to India to teach at the Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University in Baroda. In India, her austere, small-scale drawings and use of minor gestures contrasted with the figurative narrative works produced by many of her contemporaries. In art-historical terms, Mohamedi's practice can be seen in relation to an earlier generation of Indian abstract artists such as V.S. Gaitonde, and from an international perspective to works on paper by Agnes Martin or, through its invocation of utopian abstraction, to Kazimir Malevich and the Suprematists. While her drawings from the late 1970s onwards tend toward the resolutely abstract, they intimate cultural references which become explicit in her photographs - in which historical architecture suggests an aesthetic link to both modernisation and an Islamic heritage. In Mohamedi's diaries, made over a period of thirty years, textual and graphic interventions also attest to the close links between her inner life and her practice as an artist.

This exhibition, curated by Suman Gopinath and Grant Watson, will bring together for the first time Mohamedi's rarely seen drawings, paintings and photographs with unique archival material from her studio, and provide the occasion to further position her practice both within the history of Indian art and in relation to an international avant-garde. Previous exhibitions of her work include the Third Indian Triennale (New Delhi, India, 1975), Jehangir Art Gallery (Mumbai, India, 1991), 'Drawing Space: Contemporary Indian Drawing', inIVA (London, UK, 2000), 'Nasreen Mohamedi: Lines among Lines', The Drawing Center (New York, USA, 2005), documenta 12 (Kassel, Germany, 2007) and 'Nasreen Mohamedi: The Grid Unplugged', Talwar Gallery (New York, 2008). The exhibition includes important loans from the Sikander family, Mumbay, India, the Glenbarra Art Museum Collection, Japan, and Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai, India.

'Nasreen Mohamedi: Notes - Reflections on Indian Modernism (Part 1)' is part of 'Reflections on Indian Modernism', a comprehensive programme of public projects and residencies organised by Gopinath and Watson for OCA and CoLab Art & Architecture, Bangalore, India. This programme aims to revisit recent Indian art history, recuperating legacies of avant-garde practice and archiving lesser-known bodies of work that slip between genres and schools. The collaboration also comprises a residency programme for Norwegian artists at CoLab. The first of these residencies involved the participation of Lene Berg in the round-table discussion in New Dehli.