I feel true admiration for the 76 year old Indian-born New York based paper artist Zarina Hashmi, who prefers to be referred to simply by her first name. Paper has been Zarina’s primary medium both as a surface to print or draw on as well as a material to sewn, sculpture, cast or perforate. This striking graceful lady had a turbulent life in which she created amazing paper works and still does!
Despite her nearly 50-year career as an artist, Zarina only had wide visibility the last recent years. In 2011 she was one of the five artists representing India in its’ first-ever entry at the Venice Biennale. In 2012 the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, presented “Zarina: paper like skin”, featuring 60 works dating from 1961 to the present. Many of these works were publicly shown for the first time. The exhibition travelled to the Guggenheim Museum, New York to finish in the Art Institute of Chicago 2013.
Her lifelong love for paper started when in 1959 Zarina had to live her life abroad caused by the political tension between Pakistan and India. She relocated herself in various major cities from Bangkok, Bonn, Paris, and Tokyo, to end up in New York. Paper became her transportable medium, readily available, wherever her travels took her. She learned various printmaking – and papermaking techniques unique to each country, and incorporate them into her art pieces.
Though never attended any art school, Zarina confesses that not being a product of art school gave her tremendous freedom: being able to break rules and push the boundaries in both paper – and printmaking.
Zarina’s early works deal with the reoccurring theme “home”. The poetic titles for her art series like “ Home Is a Foreign Place”, “House with Four Walls” or “ Shadow House I” suggesting a sense of longing to her childhood home. In the series of art works “Letters from Home” 2004, Zarina used woodblock prints and metal cut prints in which she layers different papers and weaves Urdu calligraphy texts using elements of houses and roadmaps to symbolize the layers of life lived in different cultures and countries.
Zarina’s most recent works are a journey into herself and reveal a new found spirituality, like “Blinding Lights” 2010, in which the artist used strips of 22 karat golden leafs and created a collage of small squares. Though her works are very abstract, using strong linear elements and straight lines I feel strongly connected to it because of its minimalism and profound use of paper!
Zarina Hashmi paper artist