Artist Zarina Hashmi passes away in London
Zarina Hashmi, 83, passed away after a long illness in London on Saturday. The artist, a proponent of minimalist art, had several ongoing shows, including solos at New Delhi’s Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in Missouri, and group exhibitions at the Guggenheim and Met Breur in New York.
Zarina, who went by her first name as an artist, was born in Aligarh a decade before Partition. Her father, Sheikh Abdur Rasheed, was a professor of history at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). Zarina went on to study Mathematics at AMU and married Saad Hashmi, who was in the Foreign Service at the age of 21. Saad passed away at age 45, following which Zarina chose to remain in New York. She would, however, visit India often.
The minimal approach, which gained ground among American artists in the 1960s and ‘70s, saw artists like Donald Judd and Frank Stella pare down the flourishes in their works to focus on the physical engagement with the medium. The Solomon R Guggenheim museum exhibition titled, Making time: Process in minimal abstraction, calls upon the viewer to engage with the artist’s creative process instead. Zarina distilled references from her life into her art. Her preoccupation with paper was well known, but her other works like woodcuts and sculptures, carried forward her minimalist approach. For a 1987 sculptural piece titled Flight Log, Zarina wrote a poem: “I tried to fly/ Got lost in the thermal/ Could never go back/ Having lost the place to land.” Later, describing this, she wrote, “These four lines are my whole biography. I can’t go back because there’s no place to land. Where will I go?”
Gallerist Renu Modi recalled the first time she saw Zarina’s works in 1997. Modi, the owner of Gallery Espace which has represented Zarina for well over two decades, said, “I was doing a huge show with Anupam Sood as the curator. It was called Mini Print, and it exhibited at the British Council in four cities. I still remember the first time I saw her work, the portfolio titled Rail Line. It was done so beautifully. I had no idea how minimalism would do in India, but I knew I wanted to show her works.”
Zarina, who spent the last of her days in London, is survived by her niece, Saima and nephew, Imran.