Themes of memory and cultural dislocation are explored in the work of two artists who combine modernist abstraction with autobiographical and cultural references. Zarina Hashmi left India in 1958. Around the same time, her family were subject to relocation from Delhi to Karachi following the partition of India and Pakistan. Exile and the loss of the family home are embedded in her work, whose spare visual vocabulary often evokes physical and psychological spaces relating to memories of childhood and later life.
Hashmi is known for her experimental work with paper, whether as printmaker or as sculptor. Her cast paper reliefs were inspired by a traditional Rajasthan paper-making technique. The examples here suggest architectural forms, their surfaces subtly pigmented in natural tones to resemble tablets of terracotta, clay or stone. Letters from Home 2004 is a set of woodcuts in which handwritten letters from her sister Rani are overlaid by maps and floorplans that represent the artist’s travels and places where she has lived. The Urdu text signals Hashmi’s abiding relationship to her native tongue as well as an entire linguistic culture ruptured by partition.
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian is an Iranian artist now based in Tehran. She lived for many years in New York, first as a student in the 1950s and later as an exile following the 1979 revolution. Her work is rooted in traditional Persian craft while also relating to contemporary abstraction. The mirror mosaics for which she is best known draw upon seventeenth-century decorative techniques used to beautify the interiors of shrines and monuments. In Something Old Something New 1974 the intricately composed mirror work incorporates two reverse glass paintings – a found work from the Qajar period as well as an abstract expressionist piece painted by the artist.
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian was born in 1924 in Qazvin, Iran. She lives and works in Tehran.
Zarina Hashmi was born in 1937 in Aligarh, India. She lives and works in New York.
Curated by Jessica Morgan and Nada Raza.