Zarina Hashmi



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Not on display

Zarina Hashmi 1937 – 2020
Ink on paper on paper
Support: 330 × 279 mm
Purchased with funds provided by the South Asia Acquisition Committee 2019


This is one of three Untitled collages in Tate’s collection by Zarina Hashmi which date from 2017 (Tate T15100T15102). Each one is made from off-cuts and printed papers collected by Hashmi throughout her life-long engagement with paper and printmaking. The artist has improvised their abstract compositions by layering and weaving black and white paper, cut into thick and thin strips and simple geometric shapes, ranging from linear dissections of the page to repeated regular triangular forms that echo architectural features. This method of paring down ornament and expression to their essential form is characteristic of Hashmi’s practice throughout her career, in which she has explored themes of displacement, home, memory and silence through the language of minimal abstraction. For instance, Letters from Home 2004 is a series of eight prints – also in Tate’s collection (Tate P80181) – that combines the cartography of homes, floor plans and routes with written correspondence between the artist and her sister based in Pakistan, to consider the place played by home in a life of continual travel. The artist and her family were forced to move to Pakistan from India following Partition in 1947; after several sojourns in locations across Europe and America, she settled in New York in 1967 where she still lives and works. The critic Anushka Rajendran has described the collages and their symbolic association with Hashmi’s past: ‘Here, the strips of paper, which are carefully glued together, seem to suit the precariousness of recalling the past. It is almost as if they were jolted out of the faux certainty of memory to reveal themselves for what they are – an illusion.’ (Rajendran 2009, accessed 27 March 2018.)

The artist has used of two kinds of paper in these collages to bring emphasis to the tactility of each material through their differences: BFK light paper sourced from France has been printed with dense black ink to contrast with the white Somerset Antique paper. The surface and physicality of printed and handmade paper is of great importance to Hashmi who has spoken of the material’s organic likeness to skin. Here the raw edges and materiality of the pasted paper test the viewer’s perception of negative space. At times the strips of white paper form layered paths that meander through darkness; at others they seep between the seams of two darker adjoining pieces, offering glimpses of light and hope breaking through the weight of the darkness that speaks of memory and upheaval.

The three Untitled collages were shown in the artist’s solo exhibition Weaving Darkness and Silence at Gallery Espace, New Delhi in February 2018. Considered one of the foremost printmakers in India, as well as an influential figure in the development of modernism in South Asia, Hashmi has also used paper to make wall-based relief sculptures through a process of pulping and moulding. A group of these dating from 1979–80 is in Tate’s collection: I Whispered to the Earth 1979 (Tate T13727), Wall II 1979 (Tate T13728), Fence 1980 (Tate T13729) and Pool I (Terracotta) 1980 (Tate T13730).

Further reading
Anushka Rajendran, ‘Weaving Darkness and Silence: Zarina Hashmi’, ArtAsiaPacific, November 2009,, accessed 27 March 2018.
Allegra Pesenti, Zarina: Paper Like Skin, exhibition catalogue, Hammer Museum of Art Los Angeles 2011.

Priyesh Mistry
April 2018

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