Art world mourns the loss of Zarina Hashmi, celebrated artist passes away in London at age 83

Celebrated Indian-born American artist Zarina Hashmi breathed her last in London. She was 83 years old.

Jaideep Sen Published :  26th April 2020 02:39 PM   |   Published :   |  26th April 2020 02:39 PM
Zarina Hashmi (Source: Internet/archives)

Zarina Hashmi (Source: Internet/archives)

'Memory is the only lasting possession we have. I have made my life the subject of my work, using the images of home, the places I have visited, and the stars I have looked up to. I just want a reminder that I did not imagine my experiences.' - Zarina Hashmi

Celebrated Indian-born American artist Zarina Hashmi breathed her last in London. She was 83 years old.

Art historian, curator, poet and cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote made the announcement on Twitter on Sunday. 

“Heartbroken to hear that Zarina Hashmi has passed away in London,” shared Hoskote in his post. “She was magnificent: full of wit and shrewd wisdom, her work imbued with a tragic vision. I was privileged to have her as one of my artists in India’s first-ever national pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 2011,” he says in the post.

Renu Modi, founder-director of Gallery Espace, also reacted to the loss with the statement, “The passing of Zarina is a deep personal loss – she was a friend as well as an artist Gallery Espace represented. She was a very special person, exceedingly compassionate and lived her life gracefully, on her own terms.” 

Zarina Hashmi was born in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh in 1937 and is known to be one of the very few women Indian artists of her time who made her mark with her printmaking and sculptures, distinctly identifiable with her minimal sensibilities. Zarina frequently explored the ideas of home and distances in her work, with recurring themes of Partition and migration in her works. 

Zarina's brush with art, especially printmaking, began in Bangkok where she moved after she married Saad Hashmi, a young foreign services officer. It is here that she, in her early-20s, began taking lessons in woodcut printing from a Thai artist. Later, when Saad was posted in Paris, Zarina seized the opportunity to apprentice with Stanley William Hayter at his legendary workshop Atelier 17. 

In 1974, she won a Japan Foundation grant and spent a year in Japan, studying Japanese woodblock printing. Later she moved to the US, where she lived for most of the next four decades.

Zarina’s work was marked by their stark and minimal quality, tempered by their texture and materiality. She worked in various mediums - intaglio, woodblocks, lithography and silkscreen – and many of her works were in ‘portfolios’, a series of prints exploring a set of connected ideas. 

In addition to printing on paper, she also explored its material possibilities by puncturing, weaving, scratching or sewing it. She also created sculptures using material such as bronze, aluminium, steel, wood, tin and paper pulp.

Her long and distinguished career was marked by exhibitions in galleries and museums across the world. She represented India at the 2011 Venice Biennale, and her work features in the permanent collections of Tate Modern, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Hammer Museum. 

The Hammer Museum organised a retrospective exhibition of Zarina in 2012, followed a year later by Guggenheim Museum and Art Institute of Chicago. A large show of her works, Zarina: A Life in Nine Lines, was on earlier this year at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation.